Like many of you, I take my continuing education and improvement of my craft seriously. I attend numerous workshops and writing conferences each year, and I collect handouts and scribble down pages of helpful notes as presenters take me through plotting and character development exercises, marketing tips and Scrivener tutorials. It’s a wealth of information. But what happens once I’m home? The notes are stacked on a desk or worse…tucked away in haphazard fashion, never to be seen nor heard from again.
The first step in organizing notes by topic is to actually take notes by topic—separating each subject as it’s covered in your workshop or conference. The notes have to be taken on paper that can be easily separated (versus in a bound notebook, such as the beloved composition notebook). I use letter-sized, wide-ruled notepads to take notes. I keep all notes on separate pages. For example, if I’m at a conference and I move to a new workshop, I start notes for that session at the top of a new sheet of paper rather than continuing on the previous page. Other notepads will work as well—spiral notebooks and 5x7 hotel notepads to name a couple.
When I return home, I separate the pages from my notepad by subject and staple the pages from each workshop together. I keep any handouts with the notes I took, (either loose or attached with a paper clip). Presto! Notes by topic. Those notes are filed in manila folders by subject.
If I’m working on revising a draft of my manuscript, I grab the “Revision” file and peruse it for ideas and reminders for cutting, tightening, and pulling subplots together. If I’m struggling with my opening chapter, I pull out the “First Chapters” file to get inspired for fixing that. If I’m stumped about my website and how to improve the design, I pull out the “Web Design/Web Presence” file. You get the idea!
If, like me, your notes are taking over your office space, take a few minutes to think about what supplies you could add to your conference book bag in order to make your information more accessible and beneficial to your craft the next time you set off for a workshop. It only takes a few minutes of planning and filing to make the year ahead more productive, and all the money you’ve spent on conferences and workshops will be well worth it!