2012 Circa Calendar
Index cards (3x5 and 4x6)
Some small moleskines (mostly blank)
The list above is a label on a white box I have on my desk.
Years ago, a guy I used to work with said when things get overwhelming or major changes are taking place sometimes it's helpful to get back to basics. Just focus on getting all your ducks in a row with the basic things in your life.
I thought at the time this was great advice because it places your focus on shoring up your foundations and gives you solid ground to stand on.
There are a ton of changes going on in my life right now. Due to many factors, I'm going to have to give up my rent-controlled apartment. In order to do that and stay here in San Francisco, it means I'm going to have to downsize. This sounds like a bad thing but it isn't. I have way too much crap, including things left over from my marriage that just don't apply to me and my life anymore. I've been wanting to streamline for years and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Looking at all my stuff and starting this process is intimidating as hell, though. I know there's a finite number of items in my apartment (it's not that big) but when I think about it, I get really nervous. Need to start small, need to start steady. Plus, the idea of living in another place is also scary. It's exciting too. I think I need this little shake up.
I streamlined my schedule even before I heard about my apartment. After more than 23 years I retired from volunteering with the penguins. I wasn't doing very much at the end there and I've got a bunch of personal projects I really want to focus on. Also, I stopped doing the monthly critique sessions for my writing group. I was the only one doing them and no one wanted to back me up. Running a critique session is more work than facilitating a writing group.
This evening I've started purging in earnest. I'm in my living room and worked for an hour while listening to 90s rap tunes. I tossed a lot of stuff already, consolidated some items, and have labeled some items for storage. I'm going to finish up with my office supplies (damn, there's a lot of those!) and get ready to do some more work tomorrow.
When I first started writing I read a book on writing by Jack Bickman titled "Writing the Short Story." It was the first nuts and bolts writing book I'd ever read. It's a kind of a course where you do a ton of prep work on 3x5 index cards about things you're interested in that could be inspiration for your writing and how to map out your story using 3x5 cards. I went through the entire book and worked really hard. At the end I had a nice pile of 3x5 cards with my story, characters, settings, etc. all mapped out and...I took the pile of cards and put them away. I never wrote that story down. I even went to where the story was set and drove around, making notes. The reason I never wrote it down is because the story was done. There was no need to continue with it. This was the first time I discovered intense outlining and prep work before writing doesn't work for me.
Well, I found those 3x5 cards in a box a little while ago and had fun flipping through them. All the things I'd written down for inspiration still apply. I thought about tossing the cards because I know I'll never go back and look at them but I think I'll keep them a little while longer.
Bickman's book was valuable for other reasons even if I didn't take to the method he was teaching. Mainly, it gave me a good overview of plot structure and the concept of adding "tags" or characteristics to your characters to give them more depth.
Another thing I found nestled among the 3x5 cards is an outline for a short story I wrote when I first moved here. The story itself has been lost as far as I can tell. The setting is in the Southwest and it's an extremely disturbing revenge story. I mention it in this old blog post (The Role of Extreme Violence in Art). I went all out with it and kept pushing and pushing, trying to go to places that scared the hell out of me to see what would come out and how much I could take. I know if I read it now it would be full of beginning writer mistakes but it would be nice to take a look at it anyway. The story contains some of the most powerful visuals I've ever written and is one of the most violent and gory stories I have ever read. I still remember most of it and at this point those 3x5s are just about priceless. I'll probably write it down again at some point.
Hmm. I was supposed to talk more about getting back to basics but ended up talking about writing again. Oh well.
I have a lot of blank index cards. I use them in my writers notebook/calendar sometimes and occasionally decide to go back to using them as my calendar. And who knows, I may decide to try plotting out another story with them. I'll talk about the moleskines later. For now, let's just say I have an obsession with them, and blank books in general.
If I find anything else of interest, I'll do another post.