I’m working on a novel, which at some point had to evolve past writing scraps in my 3.5 x 5.5 pocket notebook and copying them into my Evernote. As much as I find both of these tools invaluable, I knew that some point I would have to do some plot outlining.
I’ve been reading Daily Rituals, which is essential short accounts of the daily creative habits of artists, from painters to composers to authors.The author sections are inspirational brutality. Reading how these great authors would all write diligently for large chunks of every day quickly made me feel completely useless and lazy. I don’t have that much time. There are emails to mark as spam, articles piling up in my “Read Later” app and Facebook invites to respond to with “maybe”. Finding 3-10 hours a day to write seems impossible.
I’d been stirring this novel idea around in my head for amost five months. By know I assumed it should have evolved into something larger than just concepts. It shoud have come alive. I looked at the TV and I realized that I was thinking but I was also partially occupied with tons of other little things. I was thinking but I wasn’t contemplating. Contemplation requires quiet. It requires space. I turned off Family Guy, put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode and sprawled out on the carpet.
The plot for this novel is incredibly complex, with bounces through time and altering realities. I tried moving the little idea bubbles around in my head but it was just too much to juggle. I kept forgetting what I put where. I needed to be able see what I was doing. I needed things to stay put. So, I started to think about what kind of program I could get on my Mac or app that I could get for my iPad to make it easier for me; some kind of mind-mapping software. But just putting my hand to keyboard and looking up at the screen made me feel tense and almost claustrophobic. I didn’t want to have to worry about having the screen space to move ideas around. I didn’t want to deal with zooming in and zooming out. I just wanted room to move things around. So, I grabbed a cork board that I hadn’t found a use for yet and a stack of Post-Its. I worked hard, I pushed past frustrating impasses and I refused to get up until I was done. I told myself there was nothing else I need to do and in 3 hours I had the whole plot of the novel layed out in 54 sticky yellow squares.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m ditching my technology. I still love Evernote and the security I get from knowing that whatever I write is saved in something other that a easily lost notebook. What I’m saying is: I’m just now finding the space that it takes to create. I’m saying I can scribble in a pocket notebook faster that I can type something into my Notes app. I’m saying if I leave the TV off during the day and spend time contemplating my creative impulses then they will develop into tangible pieces. I’m saying that sometimes things need to be big enough to see from across the room and physically moveable. I saying that old school is the new school.