How do we keep track of our work?

Hi everyone,

I’m taking suggestions for post conversations in the order in which they arrived. This one came from Joy Acey.
Joy AceyDavid, you mentioned once about having to keep your log/journal up to date with your publications. I think that’s what you called it. It led me to believe you keep a central record of submissions and publications. I’d like to “see” what that looks like for you. What system do you use to remember where and at what stage things are at? I know it is a small thing, but how does Jane, Sandy, Bard, or your other real poetry friends do it?

Joy, when I wrote my first story to submit, in 1959, I bought a little record book and on page one, #1 I proudly printed the name of the story, its word length, where I sent it, and how much it cost to mail it. When the story came back, as they all did, I recorded the second try, and so on. In the back of the book I started a second list that merely recorded the name of the work and when I wrote it, a tally of my efforts. I didn’t buy my first computer (a TRS-80) until 1982 so by then the habit of keeping a written record was firmly established.

Today I am less attentive to keeping up with my records. With all of my correspondence on the computer, it’s possible to track the history of my work by combing through those files and folders, should I have an interest in doing so. I often neglect my little record book (I’ve nearly filled the second one now) but from time to time I make myself spend the hours it takes to catch up. I’m not sure why I do it anymore. Some sense of obligation to tradition I think.

I just scanned for you sample pages of both kinds of records. This first shows a couple of pieces and where I placed them. The rest of the section happens to reflect one of my catch-up day findings when I attempted to round up some of the anthologies I’d been in but never thought to record anyplace.

From records – examples of sold work

This one is another case of catching up, which is why dates are all over the place. Where I found a poem unrecorded, I dutifully recorded it. As I said, I’m not sure why I keep doing this. I admit I enjoy looking back over time to see what I was up to in this year or that, but when I’m gone I can’t imagine anyone else caring enough about how I spent my life to wade through such tedious details.

From records – examples of written work

So there you have it. The floor is open if anyone else would like to respond to Joy’s question. I’m guessing I’m the last to convert entirely to the computer.

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9 comments on “How do we keep track of our work?

  1. I’m a poster child for “file/folder chaos.” I didn’t set up any real system when I started saving poems and stories, thus , starting from 1996 (my first computer) to present, my stuff is scattered across My Documents and Downloads like chaff in the wind.
    Thanks to David’s post, I’m reminded that the chaos can’t continue. I vow to clean up my files and never let them fall into disarray again. We’ll see about that, won’t we.
    Thanks again for the heads up.

  2. In theory, I’m an organized person. In practice, I’m too flakey to keep track of anything. I tried a special computer program (Masterwriter or something like that?), an Excel spreadsheet I made myself, handwriting on a table (both one I created and ones that others have created), but I can’t seem to get myself to remember to write things down or follow up on anything.

    I rely on my agent to keep track of ms submissions now, but I still need to record the small things (like when I submit short stories on my own).

    The secretary idea is grand! I could use a personal assistant to help me record things.

  3. Thank you ALL for your help with this. I can see keeping records is something I need to do a better job with. Thank you for providing the inspiration to get me going.

  4. I’m still using the same system I started out with, Joy, and like David and Veda, it’s done with paper and pen. I have a big, lined, three-section notebook, the latest of many. Section 1: At the beginning of each new year, I write the year at the top of the page and then label columns as follows: Piece, Sent to, Date Sent, Date Returned, and, for want of a better term, Verdict. The pieces include poems, stories, plays, articles, whatever I’m sending out, and are listed and numbered in the order they’re sent. Subsequent pages in that section are headed “2015, continued” with the same columns and on-going numbers. If an editor shows interest in a piece, it gets an arrow in the left-hand margin next to its name, and a date marked “int” (for “interest”) in the return column. And then comes the date and notation of the final “yes” or “no” verdict. If it’s a “yes,” I draw a big star in the left-hand margin (a throw-back, no doubt, to those gold stars in first grade). Section 2: A list of work done, including rewrites, year after year. Section 3: Income, year after year — sales, honoraria, royalties, reimbursements. I keep track of expenses through receipts, etc., kept in vertical files and haul those out at tax time. The only thing on line is an on-going list of things to do that I maintain at Workflowy.com, a free service for such lists. But I make many paper-and-pen lists of things to do as well. It’s worked for me since the dawn of my career, so I’m not about to change it!

  5. Hi everyone,
    We’ve turned the page, post-wise, but I hope you’ll continue to contribute to this one. It’s always beneficial to learn how others manage (or not) to keep track of their work. Thanks again to Joy Acey for suggesting this topic.

  6. Thanks for asking this question, Joy! It is always interesting to see how others keep track of things. I use an Excel spreadsheet. Like all such tools, it’s imperfect, but it suits me well enough.

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