By Trent Rentsch
Little things really do mean a lot. The little thing that means the most to me at the moment seems to have disappeared. It’s a little notebook, black cat on the cover, the Toulouse-Lautrec poster. I found it in an Import shop. My wife saw me looking at it and bought it for me. For that reason alone I don’t want to lose it, but at the moment there’s another reason that has me turning my studio upside down searching for it. The reason is inside the notebook, one little word... or maybe 2 or 3, I don’t remember. I knew I wouldn’t remember, which is why I wrote it (or them) in my precious little notebook. Because I would NEVER lose that. Right...
If you’ve already guessed that the missing notebook contains an internet password, you win. Extra points if you can tell me where the hell I put the notebook. I know it’s somewhere in the chaos that I call a studio; for months it resided just to the left of my computer monitor. I didn’t notice it had gone AWOL — probably still wouldn’t know if I didn’t need that password.
I’m sure I moved it in one of my half-hearted de-cluttering sessions. Yes, the mess that has already scared my wife from the room (she refuses to do any voice work from home unless I’m in the room or I buy her an elephant gun), has finally gotten to me too. My wife may argue this fact, but I’ve been heartless... several lawn bags of treasures have become trash. But for every treasure that was tossed, there are still 2 that I can’t part with. And somewhere, in all those more or less neatly piled treasures, is that notebook... I’m sure of it. I think.
Which brings me to the subject of organization. It’s an important issue to Creatives... it’s a problematic issue for many Creatives. If it’s not, bless you. As you’ve read already, it continues to be a personal struggle for me, and I envy those of you who have a place for everything, and keep those everythings in their place. With a world of such people to imitate, you might wonder what you could possibly learn about organization from a guy like me, who’s apt to find a floppy disc of old scripts filed in the kitchen spice cabinet. Elementary, my dear Watson... learn what doesn’t work, you’re left with an unmessy life.
Avoid Labeling: When writing a script, save it as whatever comes up, generally the first few words of the script. Don’t worry about where you’re saving it. The computer isn’t a slacker; you tell it to save something, it will, somewhere. Creating folders for each client/day/project... who has time? Codes? Just a lot of confusing numbers that I suppose a person could follow. Try several, maybe a different variation a day for a few weeks, then none for another month or so. What should the code include? Oh, something easy to remember, like the name of the sales rep that gave you the order, the time (in minutes and seconds) that you finished it, the first initial of the clients name... anything that gives you a vague impression of who the script was for. I’d advise a completely different coding system for the audio itself. Audio is a different thing, and surely the computer will treat it differently when you tell it to save. Besides, how often will you need to refer back to both the script AND the audio?
On a related note, don’t waste your time labeling CDs. Those labels are spendy, and you can never get them to print the way you want them to, unless you want to waste your time struggling with templates, and who has time for that nonsense? I’ve heard that some people scribble on their CDs with Sharpies, which, between the worry of the bleeding ink destroying the CD in 20 years and the fumes becoming addictive, seems a fools game. Better to burn and stack — put a leftover spindle next to your spindle of blanks, so your archive is handy. Odds are you’ll never need that old stuff anyway, and if you do, those CD’s will be right by the computer, ready to hunt through. How do you keep track of which spindle is which? That’s easy, the one on the right is the right one, and if it’s not, use the left one.
Write Down Everything, Everywhere: That little notebook I was telling you about has a lot of company. I have notebooks of all shapes and sizes, both at work and at home. When I go to a meeting or take a call, I grab the one that’s handy, take copious notes, then go put it back on the stack on my desk. Sometimes there isn’t a pad in eyeshot. No problem, a post-it, napkin, or the borders of one of my business cards will do in a pinch. The main thing is to write down that information... you might need it someday! Then keep all those notes where you can get to them. I’m a big believer in something I call the Piling System. Keep all your notes in one big pile... two, if the first nears the ceiling. Don’t worry if two piles become three; if you’re busy it’s possible that you could have as many as seven or eight going.
I will warn you that the Piling System may be frowned upon by management. If some clean freak overlord puts pressure on you to “clean up this mess,” simply file the oldest piles in the waste basket. Odds are you’ve already finished those projects and will never need that information again, ever. Perhaps you’ll lose a few phone numbers and other client contact information, but they’re bound to call back, right?
Stack, Stack and Don’t Stop: The Piling System is more than a way to disorganize your notes. I have piles of mail, unread magazines, cables of all sorts, office supplies, CDs, books... in fact, anything that can be piled in my studio, is. I keep everything, and I keep everything in a pile. That way, whether I need a patch cable or a sound effect, I can dig through the nearest pile and find one... if it’s not in that pile, I go on to the next one.
True, there are times when it can take a half hour to find my headphones, but it’s a small price to pay to have everything I’ll ever need nearby... somewhere.
Piling it High: “Come on,” you’re saying to yourself. “There’s no way a person could function in a disaster like that!” You’d be right, I couldn’t. Which is why I’m working on controlling the chaos. Creatives are supposed to be a little out of control, but trust me, if you’ve seen yourself anywhere in this column, you are hindering the Creative process. Disorganization wastes time and causes stress. Take my little notebook hunt as an example; I’ve wasted a lot of time hunting for it and stressing out about it. And all because I want to log onto this website... let’s see, I’ve got the URL here somewhere...