Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tips and Tricks for the Forgetful Writer

Femme la Fentre--Virgilio-Guidi-1891-1984

I’ve always been forgetful, but this month has taken my little problem to a new low.

I forgot my parent/teacher conference at my daughter’s school.

I took my daughter to a Christmas play practice…and then realized (after her part had been assigned and she’d practiced for an hour) that we’ll be out of town the day that the play runs.

I bought a decongestant for my husband at the drugstore, then couldn’t find it. He and I searched my car, the den, our bedroom, and much of the rest of the house before we found his decongestant—in the freezer.

And…I published a post on the Midnight Ink blog yesterday when I knew my posting day was the 17th. It was on my calendar and everything as the 17th. But I posted on the 16th.

Wow. What’s going on?

I think one big component to my problem is email and the way I’m processing it.And then what I'm doing (or not doing) with the important emails afterward--how I'm reminding myself to take action.

I'm juggling lots of different types of messages: emails from readers (which I love getting), emailed requests for interviews, review copies, signed books for charity auctions, blurb requests for upcoming books from other authors, and emails from the publisher’s publicity person---this is for the book I'm promoting.

Emails regarding revision requests, emails to obtain blurbs on my upcoming book, submitting lists to publishers regarding review opportunities for ARCs, lining up appearances—this is for the upcoming book.

And then, of course, there’s the writing for the next book, which should always be in the hopper. And some emailing to editors and agent regarding that project.

My email inbox was a disaster area. Chit-chatting stuff alongside mail from my agent. The three list-servs I’m on had emails all over the place in my inbox.


The last couple of days, I’ve been working on imposing method to the madness.

Folders for my inbox…set up with mail rules upon delivery: listservs in one folder, agent/editor mail in another, interview stuff in another. I use Gmail for work, which technically doesn’t have folders—it has labels. But you can label one email several different ways, which is nice.

Using my phone for big reminders: My daughter’s parent-teacher conference? It totally needed a phone reminder. I can set up my phone to send me a text or to make an alarm to remind me of something important.

A “Big Picture” calendar: I think one problem I’m facing is that I’m not grasping the relationship between my days. That sounds nutty, but basically I think that just because something is on my day planner, I’m not really realizing that day’s relationship to the current day. There’s nothing wrong with using a page-a-day calendar—unless you don’t know what day it is. Which I, apparently, don’t. Now I’m using both—the daily one and the big picture calendar. I need a sticker with the words “You Are Here” on it to put on today’s date.

Starring or flagging important emails: This is something I’ve always done, but it’s worth a mention to those of y’all who don’t and end up with nutty inboxes. In Gmail, you can put a star next to an important email so you can find it later. In Outlook, you flag it. You can even choose different colored flags. Later, you can sort your emails so you only see the ones that require action.

As far as putting drugstore items in the freezer? I haven’t figured out a fix for that one, yet. I guess I’ll just have to include it in my places to look when I’ve lost something.


Alan Orloff said...

Too funny, Elizabeth! What's that saying - "Feed a cold, starve a fever, freeze a stuffed-up nose"?

Sounds like you need a personal assistant, although if someone as organized as you is having trouble keeping things straight, I'm guessing a helper wouldn't stand a chance.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

And my husband read the side of the box which said to keep it at room temperature. :) It still seems to work, though!

I think the method of my madness would completely throw an assistant. They'd quit after the first day...

Lisa Bork said...

Elizabeth, good to know we all have those kind of days :)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I feel your pain, Elizabeth. I used to use a "year-at-a-glance" calendar, but ran out of places to hang it. I miss it horribly. It was ugly but kept me on track better than anything else I've tried. I'm thinking it needs to return for 2010.

A few years ago I missed a speaking engagement at a book club. I offered to return and was given the cold shoulder, which I deserved. That was the last time I missed anything and I now give people my cell phone number and post reminders all over the computer with pop up reminders on my e-mail.

Janel said...

I like to blame my forgetfulness on being a creative person. There are so many things floating around my brain at all times that a few things are bound to get lost.

If that doesn't work, I blame it on hormones (the dreaded PMS brain). And beyond that, my hair color. I'm a natural blonde. I've heard the jokes my entire life so I might as well use it as an excuse!

Keith Raffel said...

Elizabeth, Details, details. Are you getting your writing done? Isn't that all that really matters? :-)

Beth Groundwater said...

Been there, done that, Elizabeth! I've gotten calls from my kids at school or some activity, saying "Mom, where are you? You were supposed to pick me up twenty minutes ago!" Whoops! Thank goodness they're now on their own. :)

One thing that I'm very careful to do now is to make sure all my writing activities and personal/family activities are put on the same monthly calendar in the kitchen, where I'll see it. Before I imposed this rule, I was constantly scheduling two things at the same time!

And the dentist's receptionist has learned that I'll miss about half of my appointments, then call up afterward profusely apologizing. Thank goodness they don't charge for missed appointments!

Leah Saylor-Abney said...

I knew I wasn't alone!

The only way I've learned to juggle everything is to write it down. If I write it down on a list or in my daily calendar, I just seem to remember it for some reason. If I expect myself to just recall it a day or a week or *gulp* a month later, nope, no way. It's gone forever.

I also love using Outlook. Just yesterday I added Gmail as one of the e-mail accounts it nabs for me, which is awesome because now I have my writing e-mail, my virtual assistant e-mail and my "fun" e-mail all coming to the same place AND getting sorted. Suh-weet!

P.S. I tried to click on the Joanna Campbell Slan link in the right sidebar but it appears to be incomplete. It's currently http://www.joannacampbells/ but I believe it should be http://www.joannacampbellslan.com/ - just a heads up to whoever can fix that for y'all. Take care.

Julia Buckley said...

I SO know that song, sister. I am the queen of forgetful, but more than that, the queen of distracted. There's only so long that you can function while thinking multiple thought streams. I recommend making some time for meditation, too. As I see it I have three 24-hour jobs, and that can make anyone crazy. :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Lisa--I'm glad *I'm* not the only one, either.

Sue Ann--Oh my Lord. I bet you still have nightmares about missing the book club! You and I sound a lot alike. I tell EVERYONE about my little memory problem and ask them to please call me if I screw something up.

Janel--You've got some good excuses! I use genetics (faulty memory genes) and the writing fog that takes over my brain. But I have brown hair, so can't use the blonde excuse. Sigh! :)

Keith--Well, now I'm feeling better. Thanks! Yes. The writing does get done. The rest? Well...

Beth--Ok, so EVERYTHING on ONE calendar. That sounds good, too. I have my day planner, but different things on it than on my wall calendar, and then different things on my Outlook calendar. I need to consolidate!

My dentist does charge. Oops! :) I've done that before, too. It's an expensive habit.

Leah--I like that Outlook function, too...but then for some reason it started messing up for me. Don't know what happened, but I need to figure it out. Thanks for the heads-up on the link.

Julia--Distracted. Yes! Absent-minded, definitely. Meditation sounds good. I need some sort of bandaid for my bruised brain, I think.

Alan Orloff said...

Leah - Thanks for pointing out the broken link. Try it now!

G.M. Malliet said...

Sue Ann - Next time I'm in Staples, I'm getting a "year-at-a-glance" calendar. As Elizabeth points out, this forgetfulness thing seems to stem from some fuzziness about where you are in the first place. The monthly online calendar I use helps, since I can set alerts, but a yearly paper calendar could be the real solution.

Elizabeth - I well remember that sense of "what book am I talking about now?" It got easier, but mostly because I just accepted that I can't do it all and there's no point in my trying.

Mike Dennis said...

I was going to comment on your provocative post, Elizabeth, but I forgot what I was going to say.