Organization for the Disorganized

ScappleLogoI am not an organized person. People often tell me they are surprised by this, and I’m surprised that they are surprised. In my previous life as an accountant, I got looks and sideways glances from many a supervisor for the state of my desk, and I’m pretty sure the stacks of paper that constituted my filing system contributed to my almost getting fired from one position. I was actually forced by one boss to show her my to-do list generated on a computer under her specifications on a daily basis as if having a messy desk translated to a messy mind. I guess in her neat and tidy head messy equaled incapable. I wasted a lot of time tending to that list. It was like asking a right-handed person to write left handed. And forget about filing. I could never remember in which neatly (sort of) labeled file anything was, but I could tell you exactly where everything was in the piles on my desk.

Maybe my mind is “messy” (not incapable), but that’s the way it works. It does not function in an A then B then C manner. It works more in a scattershot way with bits and pieces here and lines and squiggles there.

Mostly, it worked. Except for the occasional freak-outs when I couldn’t find something at home that I should have filed months (and months and months) ago, I functioned. Then I started writing a novel. Oh Lord – disorganization is not helpful when you are working on a multi-year project with many threads and pieces and rewrites. No freak-out necessary, I knew I needed help. Then I found Scrivener (a post to come later), and I swooned. Literally. I love just opening the program and looking at it on my laptop. My stuff is all there. I am organized.

After my most recent rewrite of my novel, a draft in which I finally found my story, I decided I needed to take a step back and do some foundation work – write an actual timeline down on paper (or use software like Aeon), prepare character sketches for my new characters, nail down my protagonist’s signature, etc. All of this required brainstorming, not something I’m fond of. I remembered that the good folks at Literature & Latte, the makers of Scrivener, had recently come out with a program called Scapple for just this purpose so I decided to give it a whirl.

I had decided that I would use Scapple for my character sketches but ended up using it for other things like what happened during a period of time in a character’s life, themes, the pros and cons of making a character younger, etc. I found it incredibly helpful and just pleasing to look at hence, making me feel ORGANIZED!

It works like this:

Start with a blank page and just start throwing ideas onto it.


Connect ideas with lines. You can move the words around and the lines will follow. Ideas can be boxed in several different ways (straight lines or jagged edges, etc.)

Once you hit upon an ah-ha! idea, you can highlight or color code that idea so it stands out on the page. Of course, if you wake up the next day and ask, ”What was I thinking?” you can remove the highlights and color. You can get rid of the lines.


You can even attach photos and other images. Here are two of my characters:


The boards are automatically saved, can be printed, or exported into Scrivener.

That’s it. Scapple is simply a brainstorming tool that makes a highly disorganized person like me feel organized. And it looks snazzy, which is important when you are sitting in front of a screen (blank or not) day after day. Literature & Latte offers a 30-day free trial (that’s 30 days of use, not 30 consecutive days), and if you like it, you can purchase it for $14.99, a cheap price to calm a “messy” mind.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.