Where We Live: On a Whiteboard

Today’s Where We Live comes from J.E. Johaneman, a writer in northeast PA. He is currently working on a novel about the poet John Clare. He is a Contributing Editor at Apple Thoughts, and maintains a blog called I Write in Public. He can be found on twitter under the username dogboi.

I’ve spent a lot of money on applications for storing and arranging data, brainstorming, and mind mapping. I’ve got DevonThink and Curio, Bento and MindNode Pro, iDatabase and…well, you get the point. They are all pretty great applications, and I highly recommend trying some of them. My workflow, on the computer, includes some of them (Curio and Devonthink) and my writing applications (FocusWriter and Scrivener). Even with all that software power, though, I always seem to go back to the good old analog whiteboard.

The whiteboard was a gift from my partner. I was going through a rough patch(major depressive episode), and he decided that if I could do something productive, perhaps I’d snap out of it. It didn’t work(I still got better eventually), but the whiteboard has become the greatest tool in my arsenal. Whenever a block is staring me in the face, I head to the whiteboard. If an idea takes root, but doesn’t want to grow, I let it flow on the whiteboard. If I’m bored, I play word games on the whiteboard, tracing words out from a word I pick at random from the dictionary. On the whiteboard, I’m not  restricted by any of the limitations that a software product might bring. I can take things to their logical, or illogical, conclusions. I can branch out into areas that seem to make no sense, until suddenly they do. In today’s modern world, it’s even better than ever. I can snap a picture of it with my phone, send it to Evernote, and by the time I sit down at my computer, the picture of the whiteboard is there.

The picture of my whiteboard doesn’t demonstrate, of course, the entire process, but it gives you an idea. I usually start in the center and work my way outwards. Sometimes, though, I don’t. Because I can start where I want. I can end where I want. I can walk away, take a sip of tea, watch dumb videos, and come back. Recently, I’ve been suffering from unexplained neurological problems, so I’m stuck at home more than I would like. Through all of my recent trials, the whiteboard has become the center of a creative process that is keeping me sane. Now if I could just convince myself to work in a notebook…

The Where We Live series is chance to travel to all the different places that writers and readers live, in a deeper sense than simply geography, but the mental and emotional space they inhabit during their creative lives. Interested in contributing your own Where We Live? Check out previous entries and send us what you got.

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