My friend went into shock as she came into my dining room. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the top of this table.” The view was temporary. The top does show up in a couple of instances. Family or friends coming for dinner in numbers higher than five will get it cleared with each stack moved to a vacant bed until the guests leave. Five and under are seated at the kitchen counter.
What my friend saw was the second instance. I’d finished a writing deadline for church children’s curriculum. The day before her visit there had been separate stacks for research, teacher helps, story lines, and children’s learning activities. To the casual observer, it just looked like a mess. I actually knew what was in each stack and about how far down to find it. If she had come back the next week, the table would have been covered again with the next project.
I found myself in good company. In the March 2015 issue of The Writer. Novelist Ann Hood says, “. . . here I am all these years later walking around the dining room table looking at all these stories, rearranging and deleting and making notes to connect them.”
I’ll confess this method of organizing by stacks did not begin when I retired from teaching to write. While I was grade level chair at South Polk Elementary School for many years, the principal had a habit of placing young teachers on my hall. They found amusement in asking me for something and watching me pull it from the right stack on my desk. One of them placed a poster she found on the front of my desk, “Neat people never make the wonderful discoveries I do.” Chuckles and comments from my students, other teachers, and the principal rewarded her for her find.
I’ve seen a quote recently that I believe to be more accurate, “You can be neat or you can be a writer, but not both.”
In any case, we like having friends and family to come eat. Just know if you are coming in groups greater than five, you’ll need to give me time to find an empty bed to hold my stacks while we have dinner.