How do you keep track?

David publicity photo

Hi everyone,

I’m sick of filing and recording. Yesterday I took off from work and spent the whole day catching up on my record keeping. The first entry I made in my first record book (the kind you buy at an office supply house with lined paper), reads, FROM DAY TO DAY, March 1959, 5,600 words. It cost 16 cents to mail. I submitted it to Atlantic, The Virginia Quarterly Review (8/1/61), and Arizona Quarterly (8/29/61). All three rejected it and sent it into ignoble retirement in a dark drawer from which it was removed sometime later and thrown away.

I’m now on my second record book, identical to the first, and on page 52 of the line item entries, which is #1,428. But I’ve become so dependent on my computer files these days that I sometimes let long periods lapse between fits and spurts of playing catch-up and I know that I miss a lot this way.

Today I’ll continue my quest by trying to track down where I’ve submitted each unsold piece in the files. Yesterday all I did was add things I’ve written to the list. Forget the dates. I settled for the year. Or even an approximation of the year. Whew! I’m discovering computer folders with only a few words or suggestions or outlines of ideas that struck me at one time or another as worthy of developing further. I think I could work for the next six months just messing with those.

In this day of technology I realize how old-fashioned this must sound to many or most of you. I can’t explain why but I still need that written record to remind me of what I’ve done or tried to do over the last 57 years. The computer is a fantastic tool (got a new one yesterday; even got it out of the box) but I need something that won’t crash or get wiped out one day by my careless fingers or a capricious act of nature.

How do you keep track?


16 comments on “How do you keep track?

  1. How do I keep track of individual books–easy. I have an agent. How do I keep track of individual poems–badly. I dread the day I realize I sold a poem twice as an original.


    • I know, I know! A real fear and a real possibility. Too often I remember, or think I remember, a particular poem in print somewhere and have to go on a scavenger hunt to make sure. Ah, the thrill of the hunt!

  2. I keep a paper record, too, David, I have a submissions folder for each year, and at the front is a sheet of lined paper where I list what I sent when, to whom, and the result. It works pretty well–except that once I accidently stuck my list in an envelope and mailed it off with a submission. Ooops!

  3. I love paper records. I print out a calendar every year to write my appointments on, and I used to keep financial stuff both on the computer and written. I find that if I keep things on the computer, I’ll never look at them. I like stuff to be under my nose. If I ever start submitting anything, I’ll do it just like Deborah does.

    P.S. I love that you have your first record book from 1959!

    • And a fine good day to you, dear Renee! I share the same issue with records kept on the computer. After a while I develop so many folders that I can’t quickly remember where I put what I’m looking for and waste a lot of time searching. And when I find what I want, much of the time I print it so I can see/feel the whole document at the same time rather than scroll up and down the pages.

      If you worry about my math (2014 – 1959 = 57 years), it’s because it’s wrong. Make that 55 years!

    • So true, Mary Nida. I used to think I had all the time in the world. Now I measure out the minutes and keep an eye on the hourglass.

  4. Now that I’m 74, and trying to make my life simpler, I find I am unilaterally a complex woman. I have a show on Jan 14th in NY, and a workshop in Sedona AZ on Jan 7th. My Christmas card invites people all over the country to a show in NY, which will be up all of January while I’m in Sedona for a week. Meanwhile the ice ‘n snow this week made driving impossible. It’s not that I defy winter, or the polar inversion, or have an obsession to switch the mountains in the East for the mountains in the West, it’s just my Quicksilver nature. I can only live in the moment!

  5. I have nearly everything on computer, except for my early college and post-college writing. I worry about crashes and such, so I back up everything twice – I save it to my hard drive, save it to a flash drive, and try to also email everything to myself and save it in a special folder. It may be redundant, but it works!

  6. When you think about it, we writers have LOTS to keep track of 1) New,unpublished poems, 2, Submitted poems, 3. Rejected & Resubmitted poems, and 4. Sold poems. The most fun to track is Sold Poems. For each of those, I print a color copy noting the book/mag publisher and date; I put each new published work in a page protector and place it in my bulging binder titled PUBLISHED CLIPS.

  7. I’m updating my poem submissions chart today. In Excel, I list poem titles along the left side and markets along the top. In the cell where poem and market intersect, I enter the date submitted. If a poem is rejected, I add an R after the date and send it elsewhere–eventually. If a poem is accepted, I shout “Hooray!” and add an A after the date. From time to time, I print the chart, highlight current submissions, and stash it where I can keep an eye on the big picture. I do the same thing (on a separate page) for picture book manuscripts. Have fun with your new computer!

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