Yesterday I was looking at one of those car organizers conveniently shaped like the cupholder; it had little spaces for a cellphone, a few pens, and a notepad, if one was so inclined. It was irresistible, and my hand stretched out for it, paying no attention to my brain. Like a crow and a shiny object, we were drawn together, until my husband came past.
"You want to turn the car into an office, don't you?" he asked. "I swear, your DNA string has paper clips in it."
It's true. I get the same look on my face walking into an office supply store that my cat has when presented with a fresh catnip toy: incredibly pleased, and perhaps a little rabid. Notebooks and pens of all sizes, shapes and colors beckon, designer file folders and leopard-patterned computer mice do a little come-hither dance in their sealed plastic slips. I love it all, and I'm not the only one: an addict can always recognize another addict in Staples or Office Depot. We shuffle along with an armload of stuff, putting something down when we find a new gadget, doing that cash register math in our heads. Now, the stores take unfair advantage of us, coming out with accessories in bright, toddler-friendly colors. Binders have MP3 player plugs now, and backpacks have enough pockets to store a squirrel's stash of highlighters, USB drives, and other must-have trinkets of the trade. The best thing? It's all deductible, bwa-ha-ha-ha.
Yes, I have file folders, binders, hanging folders, Trapper Keepers (for those retro moods) ledger books, plastic see-through document keepers, index cards and boxes, plus two kinds of software that records every contact, query, date of submission, when I received the rejection or assignment, how much time I spent on the project, and what the weather was doing that day.
And the most updated piece of record-keeping in my home office is a small, battered, teal notebook with Scooby-Doo stickers on it.
It's a little hardcover, spiral notebook with 100 pages at best, and I spent a whole dollar on it the year I began freelancing. The notebook is filled with lots of essential stuff, like passwords for websites that no longer exist, the start of a family tree, Christmas gift lists, and detailed pages showing my queries and submissions. Each query page is headed by the year, and every publication or website that I hoped to sell to has notes written across it. There were a lot of 'no responses' and 'rejected' notes that first year, as well as a few mournful 'let go' scribbles for publications that I really wanted to land, but never heard from again. There are a couple of 'Accepted!' notes listed, hard to miss with the party balloons and confetti drawn in the margin. And as the pages go past, there are more assignments than rejections. I still keep recording my submissions in it today, because that silly little notebook feels like an old friend who stuck by me during the lessons learned: the editors who ordered rewrites, didn't pay me, or didn't publish the piece (sometimes all three).
Someday I'll have to replace that notebook, but I've never found another one just like it. With every organizational tool, tip and system at my disposal, it's that dollar investment keeping me on track, and reminding me of how far I've come.