Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Yesterday was remarkably productive. In addition to washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen, I cleaned the bathroom, tended to the new plants (some zinnia blooms were big enough to cut and put in a vase), finished developing my new filing system and got just about everything filed, found actual desk surface, cleaned out a couple of the plastic stacking bins in my office, did some brainstorming, got new yarn and went to ballet class.

The bins almost counted as play because that seems to be where stuff from years ago -- going back to elementary school -- got stashed. I found my sixth-grade pencil box in there, complete with the "warning: opening this box could be hazardous to your health" written in my sixth-grade handwriting on the lid. I don't really know why anyone would care what was in a school pencil box, but I guess at that age you really like the idea of having secrets. Plus, we had an actual, diagnosed kleptomaniac in the class, so there was a real danger of having pens and pencils taken away. I think that once I've sorted through that box, it will be where my stash of pens will live so I don't have to hunt for the new ones I know I bought every time a pen runs out of ink. Currently in that box, in addition to a lot of pens I suspect no longer write, I found the business card for the associate dean of my college from back when I was in school, the ticket stub from the circus, a book of "coupons" a friend gave me as a Christmas gift while I was in college (that I never got around to redeeming -- I should track him down) and a dental appointment reminder card from the mid-80s. I guess I cleared out the box between sixth grade and college, but I don't think I've opened it since then. It's like a time capsule from the mid-80s. When I'm done, the bins will store surplus office supplies (the stuff I don't necessarily need right at hand, like replenishments), art/craft supplies and office toys (for that play as brainstorming thing).

My brainstorming session was rather productive. I used a tool I found while cleaning my desk, a pack of brainstorming cards I got as a prize in one of those "games will make meetings fun!" (no, no they don't) sessions while I worked at an advertising agency (ad agency people feel the need to make everything "fun!").  Each card is a thinking tactic that's generally common sense but that it doesn't hurt to be reminded of, like "look at it from another point of view" or "get rid of assumptions." They generally apply more to things like business strategy, product development or ad campaigns, but I sometimes like to apply them to book development just because forcing myself to stretch is a good idea. The idea is that you think of a question or a next step, draw a card from the deck, then apply the technique on that card to the question. Or you can do a "reading" and draw multiple cards, with each representing an aspect of the situation. I did that for the overall plot and for the main themes of the book. Then I went through each stage of the hero's journey for each of the main characters, drawing a card for each stage. Some of the results were just silly, but a couple of things came up that I hadn't even been considering and that seem to solve one of the plot issues I was having. There's a lot more work to do, but I'm starting to feel like it's all taking shape. Today I may apply some different brainstorming techniques to what I came up with yesterday.

Today, I've already made strawberry jam. Actually, it's in process. I've done the initial cooking, but then it has to cool, chill a few hours, then boil again before it goes into jars. While I have the food processor out from pureeing the berries, I may shred some zucchini and make zucchini bread. And while I'm in my creative "retreat," I think I'll watch some relevant movies and knit. I don't have choir tonight, so I get an evening off.

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