A couple of weekends ago, I took some time to clean out my four drawer file cabinet. Generally I organize files once a year in order to keep track of items such as freelance writing check stubs, invoices, contracts and receipts. This time I cleaned out the whole cabinet.
I found hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of writing clips from iParenting Media, LegalZoom, Oxygen Media, my old newspaper column and so many other markets I wrote for early on in my career. I also found tons of “idea” files. As I was going through these treasures, I wondered why I don’t do this sort of thing thing more often.
It got me thinking:
Lessons Learned from Cleaning My File Cabinet.
Everything old is new again.
- Reworking old clips: It was interesting to read articles written ten years ago and realize many of those ideas are still relevant today. I’m reworking some of my clips into articles with a different, more current focus in order to shop around.
- Old ideas can still be put to good use I knew I saved a few “idea” notebooks, but I didn’t realize exactly how many were in there. I didn’t go through all the journals, but I enjoyed reading my old thoughts and ideas. As mentioned above, many of my old ideas are still relevant today. I added them on to the editorial calendar so I’m sure not to forget about this time, and the rest of my notebooks are close enough to keep handy.
- Old markets are still around Even before I started freelancing I collected markets. I have three huge accordion folders filled with places to pitch. As I sorted through the files, I checked on many of the saved markets. A bunch are no longer in existence today, but many still are. I’m excited about having new places to pitch or share with you here. (This, by the way, was the inspiration for all the markets posts you’ve been seeing lately.)
- There’s a reason I saved those old back issues of Writer’s Digest My husband has a basement shelf filled with back issues of Car & Driver and I have a file cabinet draw filled with Writer’s Digest. These past copies are a bonanza of information, especially the gold mine of opportunities found in the markets section. Though I’ve contemplated tossing them out over the years, re-reading the back issues justified my decision to keep many of the copies.
- Those old newspaper and magazine clipping saved to give me ideas? Update them! When I first began freelancing I wrote mostly personal finance articles, especially for my weekly newspaper column. Every now and then I came across relevant magazine or newspaper articles I felt required further discussion or investigation. I saved many of these in folders to revisit when I was looking for ideas or have time to spare for research. Now, I still have those old clips but they’re giving me ideas for a more modern slant.
- My old contacts are still around. I also went through a rubberbanded bundle of business cards. I think it’s some of these collaborators, colleagues and clients a call to say hello.
It’s OK to let go of the stuff that isn’t working for you
I’m one of those people who have problems letting go. I’m not a hoarder, but I do hold on to ideas for “some day.” Last weekend I got realistic about the usefulness of some of the articles and clippings I collect. Needless to say shredder has been pt to good use. Being organized allows me to run my business more efficiently.
Your new idea file is waiting for you, but don’t forget to revisit it from time to time
Those old ideas are terrific, but don’t forget to start new idea files and notebooks. Fill them with whatever comes to mind. This time though, don’t forget to check back with them often. The last thing you want is for your best stuff to get locked away in a file cabinet for ten years.
Have you cleaned out your files lately? If so, what lessons did you learn?
I live my writing life, to a certain extent, from my USB stick.
I have hundreds of Notepad files full of ideas, people to contact, work to follow up and new markets to target on it. Like you, I tend to keep all of these as I believe “some day” they may come in useful.
It got to the point recently, however, where I realised I had Notepad files from three years ago that I hadn’t opened after writing in them and found that there were some absolute gems in terms of ideas and contacts.
Needless to say, I created one big document and went through all of the individual files and pasted anything worthwhile into it to ensure that I, if not follow through, at least remember that they’re there.
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