My job in cubicleland combined with my husband's keeps the roof over our heads, food on our table, and we have a little left over for my garden projects and his comic books. The bulk of our waking hours are spent in the office. More I think than at home.
So when I come home and feel like writing, there's dinner to make, chores to do, exercise, volunteer duties, etc, etc. Squeezing in time for writing is usually really hard.
This past week as I sat through three days of training about how to be a better meeting facilitator, the point that really got me was organization: always have an agenda and your materials ready. In facilitation of cubicleland meetings an agenda means emailing a Word document that outlines who's talking about what when. Materials are white boards, projectors, no-scent pens, giant post-it paper sheets that adhere to walls, and masking tape just in case the post-it adhesive doesn't cut it.
So as the teacher lectured, I thought about how I already do this for my second job. I'm a teacher outside of cubicleland, in addition to writing. I never step into a classroom without a lesson plan.
I was thinking about how I already use facilitation methods in my day jobs. And what about for my third job, my dream job....writing?
Well, the three days of training helped with that too.
I get a lot of dialog, character ideas, and plots from the office environment. My desk is not sterile and clean, but full of fun stuff: action figures, paintings, non-office books, and flowers. I'm organized, but don't mind some clutter, because sterility for me zaps my creative juices. When I come home I want to be ready to climb the stairs, step into my bedroom-office, and write.
A meeting agenda is an outline. You state the objective at 9:00 AM, Al talks about policy X at 9:10. Somewhere between 9:10 and 9:30 you need to help Al and the other meeting participants come to an agreement about changes you'll bring to the manager. You can use brainstorming, ranking order, criteria matrix, and so on. Lots of different tools to choose from. The group's decision needs to be made before June takes the stage discussing Marge's retirement potluck at 9:30, and the meeting adjourns at 10:00.
This week I'm going to try using an agenda for the story I'm working on now. I won't say much about it other than it has some Russian intrigue and a lot of creepy mutated frogs.
I'm going to try to use my agenda pretending my characters are talking about certain aspects of the story. For example, the detective and the sheriff will brainstorm a particular problem from 8:30 PM - 8:45 PM. Then the Russian villain will have her time from 8:45 - 9:15 to devise a sinister plan of sabotage.
Who knows what the characters will come up with, but I like the idea that they'll be able to take over my head for a while.
I just need to make sure we go over the ground rules first....treat each other with respect, one person talks at a time, and characters need to get out of Julie's brain by 9:30 PM so she can sleep (an occasional dream visitation is allowed though).