Sunday, June 1, 2008

Brain-dump box redux: GTD and Royal thinking

For a year now I've been using David Allen's Get Things Done methodologies at work to keep myself on track with the various projects I've got going (few of which require a typewriter, sadly.) One of the tenants of the book is that your brain will hold on to stuff (ideas, to-dos, names and numbers) until you file it away into a system you trust, and that you can sit there in a blocked-up state not getting any new stuff in your head until you've emptied it out. This is a powerful feeling, emptying your head, and one that helped form the idea of my NaNoWriMo brain dump box.

We just crossed an end-of-the-month, which is my cue to dump out the box and sort the cards within into story stacks. I've very clearly got a story framework for November, as its the only one that has more than two or three cards in the box. The 2008 story had about twenty cards in it on Friday when I emptied the box to review this weekend. Three of them were hand-written -- scribbled, really -- so I opted to retype them on my daughter's Royal, thus giving me the excuse to play with it some more. Perched on her narrow chair, I whipped through the cards in short order, and then started thinking... you know, there was that backstory idea I had... better start a card. thunka thunka thunka thunka Oh, and that one idea I had about the villain. thunka thunka thunka thunka Hmmm, wasn't there something about the secondary character? thunka thunka thunka thunka Say, that gives me another idea... thunka thunka thunka thunka thunka thunka thunka thunka

With the brain unstoppered, the ideas flowed. I've nearly doubled my stash of ideas for this story, even coming up with devices that will [gasp] tie parts of the plot together in sensible ways and [gasp gasp] give the characters motivation for their actions. I had to grab an adult-sized chair from the kitchen on my way back for hunting down more blank cards since I'd used up the meager supply I'd brought home. When I finally was pried away from the machine to make dinner, I was still not deplete, and wound up scribbling on new cards while waiting for the pasta to cook.

Much has been said about how writing on a computer causes you to think on the screen, not in your head, as if the virtual page has some sort of thought-sucking abilities, or more likely just encourages lazier writing out of its impermanence and ease of infinite revise-ability. I have to agree with this. There's certainly nothing novel to me about have hands on a keyboard, since that describes my typical work-day. I've tried plotting and outlining on the computer before, too. Maybe I just don't trust the computer (true) but I've never had that same kind of rush of ideas with the PC that I did yesterday. It makes me wonder if my poor brain is still carrying around the baggage of last-year's novel attempt.


mpclemens said...

The mobile version of GTD I'm using involves 3x5 cards, a binder clip, and a fountain pen. :-) Ditching a daily calender/to-do page for a tickler file and a list of actions was the best thing I ever did for my productivity

Olivander said...

Perhaps my problem is that all this time I've been using Eno's Oblique Strategies instead.

mpclemens said...

Ha! I bet my novel was more random than that, although there's a lot of random fuzzing-about-the-edges in this year's idea pool.