If you think about it, it’s the details that draw us into a story – whether fiction or non-fiction. That’s why I was interested in reading a recent article about the value of note-taking for travel writers. I’m not a travel writer, per se, but I never travel without a notebook shoved in my hip pocket.
Whenever I visit a place (and for me, that’s typically somewhere in the frontier west) I jot down random observations. That way, no matter how long it may be before I write about the place, by digging out an old notebook I can get myself back into a specific time and place.
I use little spiral-bound notebooks that easily slide into my pocket. When I get home, I throw them into a box where I keep all my travel notebooks. Sadly, I’m not organized enough to categorize them by date or place – but so far my so-called system works fine.
Yesterday, I got an itch to write a flash non-fiction about Fort Robinson. Located in western Nebraska, Robinson is the place Crazy Horse, the Oglala Sioux warrior, surrendered and was killed. The photo above is of a replica of the guardhouse the soldiers were trying to force him into when he bolted and was fatally bayoneted in the back.
Got Notes, Now What?
The notes I took date back to 1998, my first trip to Fort Robinson. Just reading them reminded me of the blazing hot day I sat on the edge of the old parade ground, across from the guardhouse, jotting down whatever came to mind. My first thought was to make a mind-map from my notes, just to see what might happen.
Instead of using my desktop or iPad mind-mapping software, I got out a piece of paper and just started free-associating (see below). Now here’s the amazing part of the story:
As I mind-mapped (clustering is what we used to call it) I started making interesting associations. The two that most struck me were my note about a black butterfly and another about the flies that bit so hard they drew blood. I’m not sure how I’m going to use them, but I know they’ll have a part. It was a black day for the Sioux – and the blood drawn by the flies biting the back of my leg was but a drop compared to the wound suffered by the warrior.
Another thing – the wind. But I need to think about that one a little more.
Thought you might enjoy seeing my mindmap – and wondering, do you use mind maps too?