Columns > Published on February 28th, 2017

10 Tips for Organizing Your Shit

If you think this is an article about organizing literal feces, good news, my friends, you’ve come to the right place!



I just heard back from editorial, and I think we may have gotten our wires crossed. Apparently this article is supposed to be about how a writer can improve their organizational skills, which is hilarious, because I am the least qualified person to write an article about organization. For instance, earlier today I was using a fat dachshund as a writing desk because my actual desk had too many books on top of it. I am a mess. Just look:

I should not be writing this article. But I am, and you’re stuck with me. So here we go.

10. Avoid Working on Top of Animals

Does it look like I’m getting much accomplished in the above photo? No, of course not. Dog spines are wobbly. Desks fail to serve their purpose if they are constantly squirming and attempting to lick you. Note: you do not want to work on a desk that licks you. It is very gross and unproductive. As previously stated, the reason I had to resort to balancing my laptop on top of a dog can mostly be blamed on the numerous piles of unread and half-read books littering my real desk.


09. Clean Your Goddamn Desk

It sounds simple, but every so often I need somebody to get in my face and scream this at me. The more spit that splatters against me, the better. It’s easy to forget that desks aren’t designed to collect all the crap you aren’t actively using. Desks are meant to be worked on. They’re also not meant to lick you, which we covered in the previous section. Please keep up.

There are no magic potions out there that’ll give you the motivation to crank out words. You either write, or you don’t. The choice is yours.

Also, when you clean your desk, don’t just cram everything in its drawers and call it a day. If your drawers aren’t clean, then you will never get anything done. I recommend physically removing anything with a door, such as drawers and cabinets. Doors hide dirt, they don’t clean it. You will eventually stumble across it again and fall into a great depression.

You don’t even need a real desk. Does most of your writing occur at a coffee table? Kitchen table? On top of an old, dented filing cabinet? The section still applies to you. Clean your goddamn desk.


08. Doodle on a Whiteboard

Surely you have a whiteboard somewhere near your writing station. If not, go buy one. If you can’t afford one, break into a school and steal one, I don’t know, I’m not your dad, you can figure it out.

So let’s say you do indeed have a whiteboard in your possession. Great! Now go doodle something truly outrageous on it. Like a weird dong or a monster with a fancy monocle, or a monster’s fancy dong wearing a weird monocle. It’s really up to you. The point is, you’ve now had some fun on a whiteboard, and nobody can take that away from you. Except for this article, if you follow the direction listed in the following section.

07. Erase Your Doodle and Get Down to Business

Before you erase your beautiful monster dong drawing, I recommend snapping a photo and tweeting it to @POTUS on Twitter. If you’re lucky, he might even print it out and hang it on his fridge. Do you think he has a fridge? I didn’t realize this was a serious question until I finished typing it. Does Donald Trump have a fridge? If so, what’s inside? Is it full of half-empty bottles of ketchup? These are things I need to know.

Okay, now that you’ve destroyed your artwork (dongwork?), it’s time to get to work. On the whiteboard, list every project you are currently involved in, in order of what’s due the soonest. If you do not have enough projects to fill a small whiteboard, perhaps reconsider why you are reading this article and not out there hustling for more opportunities. I also recommend drawing columns on the whiteboard to further categorize your projects. Maybe one column for novels, one column for short stories, one for articles, one for editing. It’s your whiteboard. Do what you want with it.

Erase each item as they are finished, and keep this in mind: yes, a blank whiteboard will mean you’ve accomplished all of your goals, but it will also mean you no longer have anything to work on in the future. Do not let your whiteboard get blank. Treat it with the love and care you’d give your child. If you do not have a child, congratulations! You may skip the next step.

06. Do Not Have a Child

Do not have sex. Do not reproduce. Do not live with a loved one. Do not love. Do not take care of a tiny human being who requires constant care and attention. Live life alone, forever. It is the only way. Trust me. I come from the future and it isn’t pretty. Do not have a child.

Instead, consider a...

05. Daily Planner

I recently purchased a daily planner and let me tell you, folks, these things are tiny lifesavers. I don’t mean they’re delicious to suck on, although I can’t say they aren't delicious to suck on, either. I admit I have not actually tested the notebook’s flavoring. If a dedicated LitReactorite wants to give it a shot, let us know in the comments below what you end up discovering. But if you end up in the hospital, keep in mind the popular expression that involves snitches and stitches.

A daily planner is either a chart, book, or computer program used to plan out your day, and if there’s an award for No Shit Statement of the Month, I hereby request my name to be thrown into consideration. Look, I shouldn’t have to define daily planners for you. You know what they are. But do you use them? If not, you really should, if not for the obvious reasons then also this: do you know how in movies, whenever a character asks another character if they want to meet up later on, they always respond with some pretentious “Let me check my schedule”? With a daily planner, you too can be this character. I recommend the Panda Planner, and not just because the panda logo is adorable, although it certainly helps.

And now that you have a planner, you can finally start creating…

04. To-Do Lists

I don’t know how anybody gets anything done without to-do lists. Every morning before I go to sleep (I work night shifts), I write a list of six things I need to accomplish once I wake up. I prioritize these items from most to least important. When I wake up, I focus only on the first item on the list until it is complete, then move on to the second item. I didn’t create the six-item list. It’s called the Ivy Lee Method, and it works like a charm. I highly recommend it if you like lists and being productive. If you like neither of those things, then I recommend eating a brick of cheese while sitting on a toilet. Any toilet.

I also recommend creating a...

03. Submission Catalog

This article is written with writers in mind, so I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’re a writer who sometimes submits your work for publications to consider. If you’re doing it right, you should have multiple submissions out at any given time. Sometimes keeping track of where you’ve sent what can become awfully chaotic. Always keep an updated database of everything you submit. Take notes of where you’ve sent it, who’s rejected it, and where else you might possibly submit it once it’s inevitably rejected again. I also have a separate database for open submission calls. This helps me avoid wasting time trying to find new places to submit once I finish a new piece or an older piece becomes free. The more you think ahead in this business, the less screwed you’ll be down the road. I use Google Docs for both databases but feel free to operate whatever makes you the most comfortable.

Another thing you shouldn’t neglect:

02. Phone Reminders

You probably own a cell phone, which means you’re paying way too much money on a device you secretly hate. Put it to some good use for once and take advantage of that calendar app. Enter in upcoming deadlines and set reminders a few days in advance. Will this prevent you from missing deadlines? Doubtful. But at least now you can’t use “Oh shucks, I forgot!” as an excuse anymore.

Because, let’s face it…

01. You Don’t Need Organization to Write

If you are fully dedicated to writing, it won’t matter if your desk is a mess. You won’t even need a desk. You should be able to write in any setting, at any time. You should be able to write on the back of a fat, adorable dachshund if you need to. Improving your organizational skills can help prevent you from forgetting important deadlines, but they’re not going to make you write. There are no magic potions out there that’ll give you the motivation to crank out words. You either write, or you don’t. The choice is yours. Do the thing or don’t do the thing. Do it in a clean office or a trashed office. Do it on the street. Do it in the woods. Do it at work. Do it anywhere and never stop.

Or don’t.

It’s okay not to do it, too. Nobody will get upset.

But if you want to write, then goddammit, go write.

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

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