In May of 2017, traveling home to Hawaii to scatter my father’s ashes, I flew out a week early, checking into a studio steps from Kailua Beach for a solo writer’s retreat. I needed to structure my last two chapters, and if this book has been a cabling of fifteen personalities, then the pattern of our stories grew finely braided towards the conclusion. I needed a knot, a bead that was both a summing-up and a jumping-off. I needed time to think.
I also needed a fresh stack of sticky notes.
Several years ago, to motivate myself during NaNoWriMo— an online writing challenge that takes place every November— I began posting a photo of a cat every time I found more than a half-hour to work on this project. Since I couldn’t pack Tiki and Boo, and since I would be doing more thinking than writing, I’d have different photographic subjects. Here are my sabbatical posts, which, now in retrospect, offer a visual peek into my creative process, weaving order from chaos.
5/21: Checked off my first writing mission of the day while looking out over the pool. Outlined my next four missions. Then? I took a nap.
5/22: A tide of green sweeps cross the editing table as I consolidate tens of sticky notes into one. My reward is a little pool time.
5/22: This first editing assignment is really 13 assignments in one, meaning that it would have taken me about two weeks of normal time to digest these notes from over 100 hours of interviews. But, aided by plumerias and a bag of li hing mui, I’m almost across the board on day 2. Each green sticky is a summary of 10+ individual yellow stickies. A distillation.
5/23: Sometimes you have to take a detour from your regularly-scheduled editing mission to see if there’s someplace interesting that’s not on the map.
5/23: Lots of showers blew in unexpectedly, so I kept close to home base. The sticky notes exploded onto the other table, and I’ve actually begun typing a few up, with a working skeleton of the last two chapters of the book in hand.
5/24: The stack of sticky notes I typed up this afternoon— enough for an entire chapter.