SYSTEM of a Downer

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If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s A SYSTEM.

A SYSTEM organizes your writing so you don’t have look in six different places, both on paper and online, for that one snippet of idea you thought was brilliant.

A SYSTEM makes you feel IMPORTANT when you fire it up, sort of like a JARVIS without the clever comebacks when I used to think I would get a lot of writing done if I just had a laptop at home. Portable! Convenient!

I carried my first laptop with me everywhere because I was a showy idiot, and it took more than several months before I realized that I would never be so struck by inspiration that I would completely stop what I was doing, fire up my laptop (which in 2006 took for-evah) and pound out several thousand words.

It. Never. Happened.

A SYSTEM makes you feel like a Writer, because you are Writing in a Notebook that has Tabs and Colors and a Special Pen.


I’ve always had a blank book fetish, and for years I actually color coded Moleskines, and then would obsess about what I would carry around because I could be truck by inspiration and completely stop what I was doing, haul out that specific notebook and write until my fingers fell off.

That still doesn’t happen, but I cart around a bag with three notebooks and six pens every day to work or on trips (it’s actually worse on trips). I wanted to get a few notes down one day last week and then I realized I wasn’t carrying *that* notebook. In fact, I haven’t carried *that* notebook for several months. See – notebooks should have their own specific projects (everyone knows this), but when you’re a scatterbrain like me, the idea of carrying around 20 different notebooks makes my knees plead for mercy.


Evernote, sensing my sickness, even created an evil alliance with Moleskine and there is a notebook that lets me take pictures of written pages to upload to Evernote as a searchable file. I’ve never used it because I spent about a month obsessing what I would actually write in it. I put it somewhere safe so I wouldn’t accidentally scribble a grocery note on the pages and then feel compelled to save to the cloud my need for ground beef, orange juice, and Lactaid. Now I don’t know where that is.


I’ve gone through lots of SYSTEMS and the only thing that’s consistent is when I know I’ve written something I might could use, it’s either in a notebook, on a scrap piece of paper or in a file I can’t access from my current location. My SYSTEM is doomed disorganization.


Liquid Story Binder, Google Docs, SD Cards I’m terrified the cats will either eat or pee on, files on inaccessible drives – I think sometimes I could have so much more written, if only I could keep track of my stuff. Not really, though. I’m just disorganized and easily distracted and I smell Spaghettios. I can write, and I can save, and I can even keep a meager breadcrumb train of everything I’m working on in DropBox, but it’s not pretty, and it’s not my idea of organization, and it makes me walk away from the words for months on end.

I hate that.

Today’s new SYSTEM is Scrivener. It is not a brand new system to me, I was aware of it before, but previously it was only available for Mac. TI saw a sale last week and despite my hate for all things previously Mac/Apple Only, because the updates for PC/Android come months down the line, I decided it was time to revamp the SYSTEM.  It was well beyond ttime to to stop (and I mean it this time) moping over last year’s fails and mis-steps and move forward like it’s 2010 all over again and I was pretty much unstoppable. I was tired of glancing at folders and files and being utterly lost in my own head and unable to just pickup and move forward. I was really tired of missing words.


I’ve had Scrivener about a week, and like I’ve said about the last six systems I’ve tried and walked away from, I think this one is actually going to stick. I like the Interface, the organization and the At A Glance corkboard – something LSB (at l east the version I have) didn’t have. I had taken to taking written Chapter Names and mini-synopses on the wall above my desk to keep track of some kind of outline, and then I put up art I thought I was going to spend a few days moving files over, reformatting (I hate that part), and fiddling around with stuff that would actually keep me from writing. It took a few hours. It’s a SYSTEM that isn’t distracting with its bells and whistles, and I’m a little lost right now. I don’t know if I want to throw it a party or take it to the alley and beat it to death.

Grabbing Scrivener felt like nesting, the kind I do right before I crank out 25,000 words and a bunch of stories, something I really haven’t done in a few years and I miss so much. The new external SYSTEM may be something I need to reorganize the internal SYSTEM that’s felt lost and in disarray for years. I seem to be putting a lot of hops into a program that could just as easily crap its brains and take several days worth of work with it, but that’s how I roll. Here are my sparkly breakables and I’ll just put them on this wobbly shelf held up with fishing line and scotch tape.

I have to ask because when I struggle to reorganize, I like the shiny distraction and the learning curve, but how do other people keep projects, and how many SYSTEMS have been blown through before the right one came along?

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Just this fox. I'm a writer of horror and dark fantasy. I totally don't brag about it. The latter statement is an utter lie.
  • Molly McMahan
    March 25, 2014 - 2:53 pm

    Ok, I could have written this except I don’t really consider myself a writer, more of a collector of scraps and journal/pen addict. Sometimes I forget that you aren’t me except for the height, boobs and lovely skin color 😉

    I bought Scrivener too…because it looked like so much fun…
    and I open it and just look at it…
    and blink, a lot.

    • little black duck
      April 11, 2014 - 10:25 pm

      It’s only a little overwhelming and you start to put things into binders and even color-code them and you start combing your drives for more things to file and then you realize you’ve spent more time filing then writing – and that’s totally okay!

But how do you really feel?

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