I have heaps piled on my desk: my Alex Bullied edit (finally finished), lists of agents who promise they’re looking for books just like mine, Morning of the Mermaid revisions (thirteen critiqued chapters, waiting for corrections), notes for this blog. There are novels to read, how-to books to study, scraps of paper with notes on them and file folders galore.
I organize and reorganize, use stacking trays or wire baskets or file folder holders. I still have heaps, though. They’re just stacked or upright.
I keep thinking I’ll whittle these heaps down into something manageable, but they keep growing. They become crushing mountains of white. Eventually there will be an avalanche and I will be buried alive. And still unpublished.
Then I stop and think about Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It’s a must-read writer’s book, but really, everyone should read it. The central lesson concerns Lamott’s brother and his school project about birds of America. He didn’t know where or how to start, it seemed so overwhelming. So his dad told him to take it a bird at a time. And really, is there anything else we can do? Bird by bird.
When I got involved with my son’s school’s PTA, one of the things I took on was to organize the school’s annual Family Fun Day. Talk about overwhelming. I’d never done anything like it before. I had some moments of gut-busting fear. The solution was as simple as breaking it down, bird-by-bird style. Focusing attention on one thing at a time. It’s a philosophy that works for everything.
Then, to really help remind me, there’s my name. I wasn’t born Brix. I never cared for my given name. I was always on the lookout for a new name, something that felt more like me. When I was about twenty-five I had a friend who was something of a guru to me. One day, this being my mid-terrible-twenties, I asked him to fix my life.
He said, “The problem with you is that you want the wall to just be there. You don’t realize you have to build it a brick at a time.” This was years before Bird by Bird, so for me, it’s more brick by brick. My friend dubbed me “Bricks.” I loved it and spelled it with an x and changed it legally. So I am always reminded.
That’s what I’m doing now. Perfecting a book and getting it published is my wall and I’m building it a brick at a time. In that way I can face what seems insurmountable and make it manageable. I can organize my desk and my work. I can stop being so hard on myself. As someone recently reminded me — people with messy desks are creative. From the looks of mine, I must be the Queen of Creativity.
Do you also have a lot going on? Work piling up? How do you stay organized? Do you have a special trick that helps you? I’d love to know.