Lately I’ve been engaged in several distinct organizational projects: some domestic, some day-job-focused. Closets. Books. Entire rooms. I find something fundamentally satisfying about organizing, whether it’s arranging dresses and jackets by color, sorting our stock of comics for the next convention, or weeding and shifting the book collection to accommodate yet more graphic novels.
A recent frenzy came over me because I couldn’t find some of my dad’s papers. Even though I knew they were too important for me to have accidentally thrown them away or taken them to Goodwill, there was a constant buzz of anxiety until I did enough excavating in the storage space under the stairs for the accordion file with them inside to once more become visible.
But until this past weekend at my agent‘s annual retreat, I was not connecting the need to organize with my writing.
During one of our free-form conversations about process and craft, I whined about my research for something I’m working on. It’s all over the place, I’ve done all this work but I can’t wrap my brain around it and I can’t figure out what I still need to know and how to use what I’ve already learned and — I trailed off, disorderedly. Then Robin Wasserman said, “Maybe this is way too obvious a suggestion, but have you thought of organizing your research by topic?”
Struck momentarily dumb by the blinding force of this revelation, I then recovered myself enough to thank her before pulling out my laptop and beginning to type a list of categories.