Thursday, August 22, 2013

One Way To Plan A Book

"The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes. ”
-Agatha Christie

The quote above has been popping up over and over recently. It's one I've seen many times over the years but why is it getting so much attention now? She was born 123 years ago, so this is not a special anniversary year. But think of it--a woman born so very long ago is still quoted and her books are still read, still being made into movies for TV (Masterpiece Theater on PBS). 

She was an insightful person as well as being witty. One of her quotes that I like better and better, the older I get says An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her. 

But let's talk about the quote on planning a book. Doing the dishes in Ms Christie's day and doing them present day are two totally different tasks. At least in most homes. Now, we clear the table, scrape the plates and load them in the dishwasher in exactly the same pattern each time. Plates in one area, flatware in a basket of some sort, glasses and cups on the top tier. A task that needs no thinking on our part, just as it was in her day. Soapy water in the sink, a dishcloth and rinse water. A mindless task. A household chore like this leaves our mind completely free. 

And that is key here. Our hands may be busy but our mind can begin planning a novel or book. With a very practiced writer like Agatha Christie, I wouldn't doubt that she was able to plot an entire book with the washing of the dinner dishes. For others, it might mean figuring out the beginning of a novel, or depending where you are with the writing, even the concluding sections. 

I have two places where I am able to give my total thought attention to something I hope to write in the near future. The first is when I'm out walking by myself. I most often walk on a lovely trail that is lined on both sides with the backyards of homes. Bushes, trees, flower beds and birdsong--that's what I see and hear as foot hits ground over and over. I have developed ideas for many stories or essays while taking a walk. The other place that works for me is at the ironing board. It is definitely a task that takes no thought, it's as rote a practice as can be. But something about it is satisfying to me and I have often said that I do some of my best thinking at the ironing board. The problem is that we don't have to iron as many things as we once did, so that means less time standing there sliding an iron back and forth to get the wrinkles out--and planning what I want to write next.

Planning your writing projects while doing a no-thought task is fine as long as you do one important thing. When the job is finished, hie thee immediately to a place where you can jot down some notes. It doesn't matter how detailed they are. If you have nothing but keywords to jog your memory, that's fine. If you don't write it down somewhere or somehow, you risk losing some good ideas. You might remember part of what you mentally planned but perhaps not all of it. So for Heaven's sake, write it down. Same thing goes for those fabulous thoughts you have in the middle of the night. Write it down or it's going to be gone by morning.

1 comment:

  1. Dame Agatha has always been my favourite author, so I would definitely pay attention to any words of wisdom from her. I also love the archaeologist husband comment, especially when you think that her husband Max was quite a few years younger than she was.