Small picture, big picture

The Charlotte First Draft Deadline looms (Sat. 17th March is the mid-month date I’ve set), and I still have a good chunk of writing to do. School holidays don’t help my writerly progression… but on the other hand they do. Let me explain.

Ms12 and I visited the Transport Museum in Luzern last week with some visiting pals from the US. Ms12 is a pretty sociable gal who is happy to spend time with people of all ages, but she was underwhelmed at the idea of trekking through literally hangers full of trains and planes. Still, she came along with good grace, probably because she knew we usually find something to interest us.

As Ms12 and I stood up in the Gods, staring out across bi-planes and dummies (with parachutes and bad hair) suspended from the ceiling, we realised the Verkehrshaus, as it is known, is the perfect venue for a kick-butt chase scene. Together, Ms12 and I plotted a ridiculous escape route for Charlotte and Lyla across the wings of the yellow glider, grabbing onto the suspension wire, swinging across to the bi-plane… and so-on.

Ms12 wanted me to insert the scene into Charlotte right then and there. She said it would be more than perfect if the whole gang went on an excursion to the museum. And I agreed: it would be huge fun. But not for this book. I’m so close to the end now that to put in another chase scene would be a bit like tacking on an alternate ending.

I left the museum that day feeling like a legend, because even though the writing was on hold, we had some great ideas for the next book.

As a writer, I sometimes find it hard to stop work and put everything on hold for the real world. Because I work from home, I frequently have to juggle kids and their needs with my own, and I admit there are times when I find this frustrating. I understand this is not peculiar to writers, though. It’s the case for any work that requires an amount of extended, deep thought. Partner In Crime experienced this when he was working on his doctorate. One of my pals, who is a scientist, goes into hiding when she is ‘thinking’. Even Charlotte Aimes herself busies herself with a spot of gaming when she’s thinking things over, and (like Sherlock Holmes in his narcotic moments) she doesn’t like to be interrupted.

But sometimes it’s just a matter of changing the story. Instead of looking at interruptions as obstacles, or frustrations, I find it works better to look at them as opportunities to step back and take a look at the big picture.

The great thing about brains is that the subconscious mind tends to do its work while we’re taking a breather, or working on something else. Many a solution comes to me when I’m doing something completely unrelated.

Also, if you pop your Time Management Goggles on for a moment, it’s an opportunity to spend time in what folks like Stephen Covey would call the Second Quadrant, in which you do or think about things that are important but not urgent. I use school holidays for this kind of stuff.

Let me know if you have any hot tips for fitting in Big Picture Thinking.

PS. If you want a link to a graphic explaining the Covey Quadrants, Sid Savara has one on his blog.

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