Color coding is almost a euphoric phrase in a writer's world. We use color to signify deadlines, interviews, works in progress, emails to follow-up on, the illusive free time...at least that's definitely true for journalists. I'm not a novelist, but I can imagine having to organize 20 plus chapters and keeping track of each of their deadlines isn't exactly like lounging seaside in a cabana as Edwardo brings you margaritas on a silver platter.
Can you tell I need a vacation?
There has to be a method to the madness, and that's where these life-saving rainbow sticky notes come into play. But don't let their happy care-bear colors fool you--these little squares mean business and are both a writer's saving grace and the bullet point poltergeists that wake us up in the middle of the night because we almost forgot about that early morning work assignment tacked under a fluorescent quilt of to-dos.
It's a double-edged sword, as they say, but it's our life. We're always stressed out, always in "work-mode" and always wondering if we've missed something. Having a stack of sticky notes handy isn't quite the same as having 80 miniature secretaries, but it helps. It helps us organize our thoughts, color-code them, tack them on one, two or three tack boards, and know nothing will get lost in our already overloaded mind palace.
But here's the catch. Once everything's been laid out, organized, assigned and "squared" away, here's what we do...
We stare at the canvas of sticky notes and think, "I wonder if I really have to do any of this right now?"
You would think, that after multiple nights of waking up in a cold sweat from fear of missing a deadline, or spending about an hour organizing our work for the month into multi-colored sticky note form, that we'd know our best bet would be to work ahead. We should waste no time lessening our work load by starting on that transcription right away, beginning that first draft, or at the very least getting an outline put together just for the sake of adult responsibility.
But no. We sit and we stare down our sticky notes as if we can will them out of existence now that we've spent the time writing everything down. We legitimately spend valuable work time just sitting with our arms crossed, staring at our laptops, planner, and tack board thinking, "What's the max amount of time I can sit here before I absolutely have to start on all this?"
Granted, this sort of habit is undoubtedly birthed by the fact that we usually work overtime, spending most days at public events, interviewing multiple sources at a time, researching for hours and staying up all night writing because we accidentally overloaded our workload that Tuesday. The work always gets done, but our bodies spend the next several days recovering from the lack of meals we had no time to make and the excess amount of Redbull in our system.
How else were we supposed to stay awake?
But I can't help but wonder if the sticky-note stare down cycle came from the fact that we've worked tirelessly for free time, or if we have no free time because we've wasted work hours--I mean minutes--staring at bullet points that just won't delete themselves.
You can't even really call it procrastination. Procrastination involves actually doing some sort of other unproductive task to avoid the work you actually have to do. But this...this is strategic. We plan out our work load, then try to stretch the laws of time and space to create down time for ourselves by staring at our sticky notes the same way master chess players stare at their opponents king and queen.
Of course, there's really nothing strategic about spending time attempting to do the impossible.
It's not a perfect system, I admit. But the first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem, right?
In any case, it's the sticky notes that really deserve those cabana mojitos...or was it margharitas? Let me check my notes.