Managing Your Files in a Stress-free Way

This isn’t the most sexy topic in the world to discuss, but as a creative professional, storing files in a way that’s easy to retrieve later is worth the time to do. Here are a few benefits to creating a clean storage method:

  • It’s your map.
    Think months, possibly years, into the future. When you need a file, it’s much easier to a specific folder than to wait for the search feature on Finder (Mac) or File Explorer (Windows) to find it on your computer.
  • Backups become easy.
    If your backup method becomes of matter of grabbing one main folder and dragging it to the backup method of your choice (clouds, external hard drives, SD Cards, Flash Drives, etc.), you’ll know you have everything you need.
  • Computer upgrades go more smoothly.
    A new computer is inevitable. You’ll be able to move the files you need to a new computer without worrying you missed something.
  • It’s easy for someone else.
    The method used to save files on your computer needs to be easy for someone else to understand. Why? These files are your intellectual property (IP) and, in quite a few cases, are valuable to the survivors of your estate after your death.

Save Writings and Artwork in Folders not on Your Desktop

Don’t let your desktop look like this.

I can’t tell you how many computers I’ve seen where my clients stored everything (or what looks like everything) on their desktop. While they argue it makes it easy to find things, I’ve watched them try to find items, and it takes awhile.

Not only is this messy, but the file names are shortened to a code that makes sense to my client but no one else. Or the files names are so long that the icon doesn’t display the name completely.

It’s no surprise that a few “incorrect” files are opened before they find the one needed for our project.

The Solution

The Mac and PC platforms by default have a Documents folder. This is the best place to create your folders needed for your project.

A Suggested Method for Writers

Let’s say that as a writer you write novels, short stories, and non-fiction. Instead of storing all the writings into the documents folder, you can sort things in more detail with sub-folders. This helps when it’s time to back things up.

In my case, I created a Writing Projects folder that contains everything I’ve written. Inside the Writing Projects folder, I created a folder for every book I’ve written, a short stories folder, a published short stories folder, and a short story collections folder.

Every book written will have the text written, images, multiple ebook formats, contracts (if applicable), and original source files (such as Scrivener, Adobe InDesign files, MS Word, and purchased photos for covers). Therefore, I create a sub-folder for each book.

This is an example of my folder layout for my novels. Click on the image to see a readable version of this graphic.

A Suggested Method for Artists

Digital versions of your paintings and drawings will happen at some point. I’d recommend creating a folder called Artwork, which holds the scans of your art pieces.

Depending on how the artwork is going to be used, sub-folders can be helpful. For example, I have art pieces that are stored as .tiff and .jpg in multiple sizes. I could name the file in different variations such as My-Dog-Pen-Drawing-8×10.jpg and My-Dog-Pen-Drawing-coffee-mug.jpg and store them in my main Artwork folder. But, what if I have multiple drawings of my dog? In this case, it might make sense to store everything related to My Dog in a sub folder. This way it will hold pen drawings, digital artwork, and paintings of my dog in one spot.

The key is to group things in away that makes sense. For a while, I sorted things by the type of artwork that I created (acrylics, pen, and pastels). However, if I branched into commercial items, I may find it more useful to create sub-folders by topic. Maybe I’d have dogs, cats, landscapes, snowmen, etc.

This is an example of my folder layout for my art. Click on the image to see a readable version of this graphic.

Keep it Simple

Overall, the goal is to set up your file folders so that you could find what you’re looking for three-years from now. That way, it’ll be easy to back up your computer at regular intervals and find the information with ease.

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