Do you know that saying about going back to the drawing board? I am one of those people. I go back to the drawing board. Often. Why? Because that is where I start. It’s sort of a habit I picked up in college. There are all sorts of methods of brain storming ideas and churning plots. I leaned that back in like elem, but the ways they suggested with the little bubbles or the straight bullet point outlines don’t always appeal to me. My scattered mind very often jumps from one idea to the next without any sort of continuity, at least, not to the casual observer. To people just glancing it over, they only see the storm of ink.
I know how my thoughts connect, and before college, these brain storming sessions were written on blank sheets of computer paper. That way if I needed to sketch things in, I could. I could cram tiny scribbles in between two ideas when I began to run out of room. I drew arrows like a strange sort of connect the dots so when I later looked over the page I would know what I was thinking. I can’t tell you how often I look over notes I wrote in my earlier years as a writer and cannot understand what I meant. I just assumed I would always be able to remember them, but time made even my best ideas fuzzy.
I also often found that one sheet of computer paper simply was not enough room for all my ideas. One afternoon freshman year I popped into the lounge next to my dorm room. The common room of my floor was equipped with all the usual suspects: a large T.V., terrible old couches, a bookshelf brimming with books, two round wooden tables with chairs, a long table against the wall with computers, and to the right of the entrance on the wall, the white board.
Until the moment, I had maintained a small white board beside my door. Every girl on the floor had a white board, each with one magnet to slide between an “IN” or “OUT”. We all had markers to leave each other notes. Some used their white boards to play games like Werewolf (or Mafia depending on who you talked to). As I lived next to the lounge, I took up drawing cute or seasonal things, announcing the Friday night movie we would hold in the lounge or just writing quotes from a book on wisdom. Needless to say, I had a very large army of colored markers.
It was with this army of markers that I approached the white board in the lounge, intending to story board a short story due for class the way they did for movies. (I am one of those dorks that proudly watches all the extras.) I was stuck on ideas, but I figured if I paced and stared long enough, something was bound to happen. Friends filtered in and out. I picked up a marker of one color to add a line or two before switching to another. I am sure when people first walked in the door, they must have thought I had been drawing something with all the colors and the eyeing and the ‘hmm’-ing from a distance, at least until they were in the room far enough to see the writing on the wall. Before long I had filled up the board. When I went to write it all down in a more orderly fashion before erasing it, a friend just snapped a pic. Then I erased, filled the white board, and snapped another pic. The process continued a third time in that one night.
I never broke out of that habit. Whenever I get stuck or intimidated by a story dead line, I would find an empty classroom or take over the lounge and write it out. I think having the combo of the pacing, others to comment and ask questions, and being able to use the different colors and drawings helped in my creative process. I am not saying it will work perfectly for everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a go. I love it. While my laser printer was my first big purchase for my writing career (did I just write that? Who do I think I am? Rowling?), the second purchase of my writing career was the biggest white board I could buy. It is on the wall directly behind my ‘desk’, if a folding table, an ancient hand-me-down laptop, a pile of napkins with scribbles, and a desk lamp can be considered a desk. Being a writer has a low overhead.
All that aside, I want to make a point. The point is this: I love my white board. Maybe the way some people love burritos. I don’t know. I have never loved a burrito like that, though the sofritas burrito at Chipotle may have rendered me close to that love.
So yes, I haven’t forgotten that I am supposed to be *cough*writing*cough* this month, but seriously, this story just requires a lot more thought and research! Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland alludes to math, history (War of the Roses, indeed!), possibly the French language, and enough other things to make my brain hurt. I want to make sure I am keeping my story in tone with that. I just found I really needed to have a solid outline/plot/list of antagonists and their motives figured out instead of jumping in all willy-nilly. And that picture above? Totally not the first board I drew for this story. Actually, if you can make it out, some of it is still in purple from the first go.
I just want you know that freeing yourself from the computer or the pen and paper methods can be a helpful method to unleashing your creativity. White boards are like rabbit holes. One can never be certain where it may lead. So go forth! Find a white board! Doodle (however badly), story build (however nonlinear), and stuff!
Love and Lightning,
Yes I intentionally made that picture a few sizes too small. I believe in the N.S.Z. (the No Spoiler Zone).