Sunday, June 06, 2004

Clustering aka Literary Tinker Toy ™

For some reason I've heard a great deal from friends, colleagues and clients how they'd like to write more, sharing expertise or ideas or to test their creative talents in writing fiction. The common thread.....they don't know where to start. I've listened to their desires and frustrations and know if they would just sit down with pen and paper, or at their keyboard, the thoughts would flow. However for many, that still isn't enough. They start with a title.

The title is usually the hardest few words to come up interesting enough to entice readers to turn the first page, electronic or otherwise. As they struggle with a title, their creative literary juices stop flowing altogether and the project is abandoned in frustration. Clustering is a way to counteract all that. Interestingly enough, as I worked on an org chart - strategy for a client using visual software, it occurred to me that this was the same as clustering only in electronic form (and I'll describe it in a minute, though the title might give you your first inkling).

Think Tinker Toy™. One of those amazing toys that span generations. Wooden round disks with holes drilled and wooden sticks to insert in the holes and voila! You have a structure being built with little or no effort. Clustering is just that.

Picture your first wooden disk placed on the centre of the page. This is your idea. The one that burned to be written in the first place. And from that idea, others come to mind. From a Tinker Toy™ perspective those are the wooden dowels placed in the centre disks with other circles placed on their ends. Sub-ideas. And as each one is jotted down, other thoughts for each one of those ideas come to mind. New dowels and subcircles. Before you know it your chapters of the book are determined. Holes are filled in and you have an outline, translated to a book. Your main idea that started it all off can be tweaked to create a title and voila! Without hitting your head against the wall with writer's block, your book has taken shape.

This technique works beautifully for everything from a book to a course to writing a detailed report. It also works in creating an effective org chart for an organization, to organizing files. (Enter Personal Brain ™ software for those techies who shun pen and paper for technology.)

One vehicle doesn't work best for everyone. Bottom line is getting the thoughts down on paper or 'puter. It's exhilarating and who knows where this could lead? A an ebook to a print book.....the sky's the limit and it all started in one small circle.

Donna Karlin

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