A FUNNY THING HAPPENED on my way to becoming organized …. by Rosemary Lord

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpgRosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

 

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What I was trying to do was organize my life. Organize my life better – as I had so much writing to do, as well as a life to live.  I had – still have – several books, short stories and some magazine articles I wanted to write. I actually managed to finish a couple of mystery novels and started another. I wrote a magazine article and revised and updated two of my published non fiction books, Hollywood Then & Now and Los Angeles Then & Now. But this was not enough. I decided I really must get properly organized, so that I can increase my literary output.

 But hey – this is me. Remember all my notes on little bits of paper? And my “…I know it was blue – and I was eating something when I last saw it..”?   What chance do I have?

chartThen someone told me about “Org. Charts”… Online Organizational Charts that are supposed to make your life easier. Some of the versions can be very expensive, I was told. I was excited. Perhaps this is the magical cure I had been seeking?

But when I went online and perused various Org Charts, I realized that – uh – this is kind of how I always map out my writing. I just didn’t have a name for it.

 I have a large notice board and cover it with post-its. Each post-it has a chapter number and a brief outline. On a different colored post-it, characters in that chapter are listed underneath. Another sticky note has specific plot details for that chapter. I add to this ‘organizational chart’ of sticky post-its as I finish each chapter.

Towards the end, I review the arc of the story and how I got to this point. Then I sometimes move the post-its around to an earlier or later chapter, as I realize what needs to be revealed at certain times. On a read-through of my first draft, I might decide to cut a whole scene or even a chapter. If it is sounding too busy, I may chose to cut a lesser character out.  So I go back to my board and remove the relevant sticky-note or two and put them at the very bottom of the board, so I can see what I have taken out. I might be able to use those pages elsewhere – or even in another book. I find this method very helpful.

 Now along the way I get many interruptions from my writing time.

A major interruption was when an elderly lady rang me a few years ago and, with a shaky voice, said “…they’ve taken our club, changed the locks – can you help us get it back?” So began my long journey into saving the Woman’s Club of Hollywood from a real-estate grab and  from being turned into a luxury condominium resort.

2015-clubhse-from-front-drive-jpg_orig
Women’s Club of Hollywood;picture from their website

Founded in 1905, this club is where Mary Pickford attended events and handed-out award-cups for various flower shows. It is where Charlie Chaplin entertained and later on Gloria Swanson lectured on nutrition. Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper and other Hollywood legends attended fundraising luncheons. Big Bands used to play there. The property is on the site of the old Hollywood School for Girls, where Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joel McRae, (boys were allowed in kindergarten there) and daughters of the early film pioneers Cecil B. DeMille and Louis B. Mayer and even David Selznick’s mom attended school. Oscar winning costume designer Edith Head was one of the teachers. Actor Charles Laughton came in to teach Shakespeare. The old 1903 school house still stands in the rear of the Spanish-style clubhouse. Property developers salivate at the thought of replacing this historic landmark with gleaming towers of condominiums and apartments.

But it’s not over yet. With huge legal fees accrued, there is a Federal judge and a Federal Trustee overseeing and scrutinizing how it is run. But at least we got the building back for the older ladies to do their charitable works and to save a piece of Hollywood history. Many younger women – and men – now enjoy the social hours and the philanthropic events at this historic club. And this is where I heard ‘The Org Chart’ again.  As a charitable, non-profit business I was told that an Org Chart is essential. Archive materials abound, historic documents, boxes of photos juxtaposed with legal documents, IRS papers and current documents.  So lately my head has been buried in setting up an Org Chart for the Woman’s Club, delegating committee work and assigning volunteers who offer to share the responsibility to keep this Hollywood legend flourishing. Those are the serious, grown-up Org Charts.

 But the Org charts of my own making, to do with my writing, are the real fun ones.  When I was revising and updating Hollywood Then & Now, my board was covered with thumbnail pictures of the various Hollywood landmarks I was writing about, as I attempted to weave the story of the origins of legendary places – and what they look like now.  Of course, throughout all of that writing, my desk, my floor and any other available surface was covered in sheets of paper and many hand-scribbled notes on scraps of envelopes and such. But I knew where everything was and could find the relevant note easily. I was organized. Honest!

 I think (I hope) there are other writers who  operate in this ‘organized chaos’ fashion.  I realize that I am perfectly, creatively organized when I am actually writing. I have to be – so much I write about has historical data and information in it. I can’t fudge that.

 It is my life that is not organized – and my time. Which is why I am often writing so late into the night… and I haven’t managed an Org Chart for that yet.

Any ideas?

 

18 thoughts on “A FUNNY THING HAPPENED on my way to becoming organized …. by Rosemary Lord”

  1. Up early, thinking about “organizing” my day and there was your post in my mailbox! No, no ideas, but your org chart approach actually sounds like it fits for you? Loved hearing about Hollywood in “the day,” and I think it’s so wonderful you’re helping the Women’s Club of Hollywood. It’s a very good thing, I think, to preserve the history there, and keep available this special place for the Ladies. Enjoyed reading, Rosemary, and you’ve gotten my day off on a great footing.

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    1. That does the job for me: post-it’s and a big notice board, Madeline! And this building is very special….so it’s worth saving…
      Glad to start your morning off with a smile😀

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  2. As with most things in life, we need a little organization. Whether it’s an organizational chart, a to-do list, or a checklist, it keeps us on track. Glad to hear I’m not alone in this. It is great to have it mentioned every now and then. Thanks, Rosemary.

    But also, your talk about the Woman’s Club of Hollywood is so intriguing. What research for your writing! And what fun for people who go to the club for their numerous events and learn about the Golden Years of Hollywood. To have that much of Old Hollywood at your fingertips is terrific. I want to hear more about that aspect of your life.

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    1. There is so much of old Hollywood that is being lost. Lovely old historic buildings disappear over night. We have to do something to preserve them. And there is a lot tell…. One day I will….thanks, Gayle.

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  3. My garden plans and schedule is organized, my housework is not. My bookkeeping is organized (when I force myself to DO it), but my meal planning and execution is not (often burning things or sticking them to the bottom of the pan, forgetting to defrost the night’s meat, or fail to get all the ingredients at the store for a recipe. (Sigh)
    You win some and lose some.
    I’ve tried charts – they work as long as I refer to them.
    I’ve tried to-do lists – and most of what I list gets accomplished…. especially the things I MUST pact to go on a mission trip somewhere in the world.
    I have grocery lists and envelopes of store coupons, however – but often forget to take them.
    Age? Laxity of retirement? Laziness? Loss of fire for a project?
    Glad you are getting lots done at the Club…. now, back to that well-organized novel!!

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    1. Oh Jackie, you sound just like me, with lists and envelopes and things! And yes, I am finally stealing a little bit of time for my own writing. I just need to borrow a ten-year old to help me with my computer stuff! My laptop crashed this morning – so it’s taken me all day to even access this website!
      Thanks, Jackie.

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  4. Fascinating post, Rosie. I did not know all those facts about the Woman’s Club, but how lucky for them that you stepped up to get them back on track. I love the visual of you and all your pieces of paper, and I’m impressed that you knew where everything was! I waste far too much time searching for the info I want/need when I’m writing, even though I put everything tidily into a folder marked “Notes”–and then promptly forget to look over its contents.

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    1. Oh, I have those folders, too. I come across them long after I have finished the relevant writing…. And the problem with a brain full of historical facts, is that it’s hard to switch it off….this leads to too many sleepless nights! Thanks, Bonnie.

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  5. First, I’m so glad you brought your work with the Hollywood Women’s club to light. It gives us a chance to publicly announce how proud we WInRs are of you for all your years of hard work to save the landmark building from destruction.

    In my previous life, I used to order office supplies, including annual calendars, datebooks and such for staff. I found that the formats that worked best fit not only their needs, but their comfort zone – if you don’t like to be micromanaged, then you’ll ignore your hour-at-a glance planner. Creative people often prefer the freedom of doing things on their own terms, even if it isn’t the most effective way to function.

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