WARNING: May contain naughty language.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Doodling" for Writers

My ten-year-old son is in that invariable phase of "gun love" which all boys go through. Not sure if its due to the hours of "Call of Duty: Black Ops" and "Modern Warfare 3" or a reference book I purchased last week called "Firearms of the 20th Centry" complete with lavish illustrations.

Our kitchen counter is covered with epic battlefield scenes of brave stick figures blasting away at each other with dotted lines, grenades bouncing around, VTOL air support and the occasional ninja. Drawing and doodling is fun. And important.

One of the non-fiction books which occupies a permanent place on my shelf is "The Back of the Napkin" by Dan Roam. In my professional life I'm often using a whiteboard in front of customers to visualize and explain very complex technical topics and Roam's book is an invaluable resource. One of the points of the book is that if one were to ask a group of 1st Graders how many of them are artists, all of their little paws would go in the air. Ask the same question to 3rd Graders and you get a few less hands raised. Ask it to a class of 6th Graders and you're lucky to get two or three responses. As we get older, I guess, we start to discredit our own awesome pictures and scribblings until we accept the "fact" we're no longer artists. Sad, but true.

I think the same thing occurs in writing.

One of my many resolutions this year is to write more. Doesn't mean I have to crank out a novel - I'd like to and plan to, but that isn't actually the point. When I'm waiting for take off in plane, bound for Oakland, I can scribble snatches of dialogue on paper. Waiting around for a  conference call to start, I can create a descriptive paragraph for a minor character. This patchwork method may not work for everybody, but I'm digging it so far.

I also find more and more blogs are leveraging technology to create "communal writing exercises." Chuck Wendig is awesome for these exercises. Yesterday, the topic was "How Will I Die?" and he created a Tumblr site for it. I cranked out a couple of responses (see below) which I will likely NEVER use in a work of mine, but the process of *thinking* and *doing* keeps the razor honed.

I still doodle in pictures but have become a big fan of MindMaps as well. Occasionally when I'm a little stumped about the planned structure of a novel, I will render it in a flowcharts and pictures instead of the conventional outline format. Much more free form and right "brainy" to me. The only drawback I've noticed is that I sometimes spend TOO MUCH time mapping and doodling. I call this "meta-writing" (writing about writing without actually writing what you want to write, right?) and its an insidious procrastination method. Which is a topic for another blog entry. Soon. When I get around to it. After I've diagrammed it...see what I mean?

"How I Will Die" (Figures 1 & 2)

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