Stationery Addict: Organiser Tips

OK, I’ve titled this post organiser tips, but really I’m just showing you my favourite ever bit of stationery/planning tool: my gorgeous personalised planner from Cordwain HIggler. This was a birthday present and I’ve had it for three and a half years now and it’s showing no signs of wear, although it’s popped into my bag on a daily basis.

I’ve loved a filofax-type format for a long time because of the flexibility. Notebooks frustrate me, because you can spoil them (yes, my perfectionism might sometimes be a bit of a problem). In this (and my previous filofax, now housing ‘archive material’), I’ve had various different setups over the years and it’s fine to rearrange at intervals without any crossings out or tearing out of pages. Perfect!

A couple of years ago, I noticed that standard size postcards (such as those used promotionally by publishers, for example) fit perfectly in my organiser (which is ‘personal’ size, btw). I already had the special Filofax hole punch, for printing my own inserts (business is booming on Etsy for designers of such things; I’ve had some beauties over the years). So now, events such as YALC tend to lead to a refresh of my organiser dividers. In case you’re wondering, after trial and error, I can confirm that the easiest way to make them into dividers is to purchase repositionable tabs for folders, rather than force yourself to cut tabs into the side of the postcards…

I think this flexibility and ability to be creative inside also negate the possible criticism some have of having a permanent organiser instead of an array of notebooks – the boredom of always having the same cover. You can be always changing it up inside. And these days, with companies like Kikki K (and an Etsy industry) practically dedicated to planner design and decoration with pre-printed inserts, stickers, cute dividers and so on, it’s very easy to mix it up and make it attractive. I’ve gone for something which cheers me up and genuinely gives me pleasure to look at and use with very little effort to set up, but if your craft skills are better, you can make good use of scrapbooking papers for example and really create something personalised.

So, if you need a notebook by your side and, like me, are frustrated by having ‘ruined’ too many pretties, why not try an organiser?

Writer’s Wednesday: New Year, New Tools – The Maker’s Yearbook 2018 Review

The Maker’s Yearbook is produced by Nicola Taylor, who is a photographer and small business expert. I bought it for the first time in December, after seeing a writer friend with it and thinking it looked useful. How right I was!

Not only does it begin with a useful review of 2017 and goal-setting for 2018, followed by monthly and weekly planning pages for the year, but buying the planner also gets you a year’s membership of Nicola’s online classroom and Facebook group. This is brilliantly useful and I’ve already made major changes to the way I work on my ‘at home’ days (I teach 3 days a week, and write – in theory – 3; of course, teaching doesn’t quite sit neatly in its allocated days…).

Obviously, some of the material does not apply to me personally. For example, there is some talk about selling to galleries, buying materials from suppliers and organising post office runs, but there is an awful lot that does apply to me and many things can be translated. The messiness of a small, creative business, certainly does apply to me as a writer often working simultaneously on more than one commissioned task, a novel that I really want to write and trying to fit in pitches to expand my scope (Nicola would call that working ‘on’ my business rather than ‘in’ my business, and it’s the stuff that most easily gets overlooked – and which then leads to you getting stuck – see? she knows what she’s talking about and makes it easy for creative/artsy/non-business brains to deal with!).

Also, of course, as you would expect from a professional photographer, the yearbook is beautifully laid out and therefore easy to use. The systems and habits ingrained in it are straightforward and clearly likely to ease working and increase productivity, and the camaraderie and support in the FB group is already a highly valuable resource.

Personally, I bought the digital download as I was eager to print and get started, but the physical book is spiral bound and I’ve heard it comes beautifully packaged. To be honest, I’m already thinking I’ll buy a physical copy next year. If you want a closer look, there’s a video flick-through on the front page of the website.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this to kick-start your 2018 if you are a creative. It’s particularly aimed at people producing and selling physical objects e.g. on Etsy, at craft fairs or on their own websites, but I’m certainly finding it useful (and who doesn’t love a pretty planner!)

Fifth Friday Five: Must-Haves for Writing

On months with 5 Fridays, I’m doing a Top 5 list for the fifth Friday. Here’s my first one, which you may have seen a version of before, as these are all points I’ve made before – and will probably make again – about things I need to keep me writing.

1 Timer

This really does come first. I use a timer for motivation in all kinds of work, and it really does help. When I’m struggling to focus (i.e. cataloguing socks is suddenly looking ridiculously tempting), just setting a simple kitchen timer for 15 minutes, putting the phone away, turning wifi off and doing NOTHING ELSE for those 15 minutes will get me started. It’s great for busy days too – 15 minutes each on a handful of tasks moves me further in a morning than the faffing that I would do otherwise.

Stamps

Not postage ones, but children’s brightly coloured stars, hearts, faces etc. Some people use stickers. This is exactly the same principle, but stamps are less consumable (and, I suppose, less varied). It’s a simple yet effective anti-procrastination motivational technique which becomes more powerful the more stamps/stickers you have lined up – once there are a few in a row,  it becomes more and more important (and easier) to keep going.

I use a set of Crayola pen stampers and assign different meanings to different designs, so 1 is for exercise, 1 for writing a blog, another for fiction writing and so on. When I’ve done the thing, I stamp the calendar day. It works really well to help build and maintain ‘streaks’ of good habits. Some people allocate a stamp/sticker to a certain number of words written or to pages edited etc or to time spent; I just credit for having done it at all (my standards are low, alright?).

3 SCBWI membership

The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators is a fabulous organisation for those of us working in that area. A lot of what is offered is geared to fiction, but non-fiction writers are welcomed too. Membership is open to anyone interested in children’s books – you do not need to be published. The Society organises critique groups, a British Isles conference (which I went to for the first time this year, and loved) and many smaller events. I am drafting this on the train to a day workshop on writing series fiction for 5-8 yr olds taught by a successful author in that area, for example. There is a lot of skill-sharing, which is invaluable, and conducted with a generosity of spirit.

4 Notebook and pencil

I write on computer, but all my planning and ideas generation is carried out by paper and pencil – or occasionally an array of coloured pens. I could not write anything without this stage.  Of course, when I say notebook, I really mean my trusty organiser from Cordwain Higgler. Isn’t she lovely? I’m going to do a post all about her one day.

5 Scrivener

I am a relatively recent convert, but I have transferred all my novel plotting to Scrivener’s outline board and I love it. It allows for clear organisation of ideas; moving around (and insertion) of parts; separation into scenes/chapters/acts to clearly see turning points etc – fabulous for a structure junkie like me! You can also have character notes, older drafts, research notes and anything else you like saved right in the file but not part of the word count of the story for easy viewing – so useful! (yes, yes, I know – I should have been using this years ago and no, I’m not on commission, and I know it would be even better if I were a Mac person, but there we are…).

What are your writing must-haves?