I'm a mentor to an outstanding group of college kids. The first best things about mentoring them are their open minds, their willingness to perceive beyond themselves, their enthusiasm to self examination and discovery. (In my reality, there can be many first best things. I hope we live in the same reality. If not...well, we'll be interdimensional pen pals).
The second best thing about mentoring them is a blue leather notebook that's the size of a Moleskine, but not a Moleskine in that it's a beautiful notebook I didn't have to pay for. (That, and it's really not a Moleskine). The students each receive one too. I like to think they inscribe their deep college thoughts on it, the kind that occur to them while they sit in just the right shaft of sunlight in some richly furnished nook I have forgotten since my own time there (I work at my alma mater - yay!). I have a sneaking suspicion, however, they probably wind up on the floor, empty, stabilizing those dorm room desk chairs designed by someone who thought, "It'll rock even when I don't want it to. Neat!"
Meanwhile, I use mine for plotting my book, and it's starting to look like this. (Lilly Wachowski, I'm sorry for linking to the Daily Mail).
But why is that? Why does my plot keep turning into a crow's nest of restated lines, winding arrows, frantic scribbles in nigh unintelligible cursive?
Well, part of it is research. I've been looking through Wikipedia entries on animals, forestry guides to recognize trees (or a least be able to name them if I need a setting to feel more concrete). I've been going through baby name apps, saving entries I find in the hopes that I will discover one that's at once aurally and metaphorically complete, or a few crap ones I can combine to make something both conceptually cool to me and not altogether dirty-sounding. As I do that, I'll latch on to an idea that conspiratorially whispers, "Yes, follow me." Then my notes go catacorner, vertical, (eventually, probably) in figure-eights.
I think that my discoveries there help a little bit down the road in the what-the-fuck-actually-happens part of my schemes. They give me the blurry suggestion of a road map. I imagine it's like if Mr. Magoo had to make books with his eyes. I'll write each plot point down in a little, scrunched up block as I discover it. I'll get further into it, word by word, and think to myself, "Look at that up ahead! It's a circle." Then I'll get to the place where I thought the circle would be, and it's actually a rhombus with a bad back and pointy teeth. Thus, another winding arrow begins.
But it's not a bad thing. Right? It's not like I'm second guessing. As a baseline plus, I'm not raging around my apartment waving my not-a-Moleskine over my head like a tusken raider, shouting "This is shite!" (because if I was going to stoop to this level of hipster-ish self loathing, I would be swearing with British spelling, sans accent), and then retreating to a corner in an Anakin-level sulk. Every time I find another twist in how I thought my story should go, I like to think I'm giving it a hug, pointing in a direction, and saying, "Hey, buddy! You go there."
Which is basically saying that plotting is my story working itself out through me. It's my story being open-minded and humble enough to discover that the way it's going now isn't quite right, and me being interested enough to give it the space to find out what to do next. I expect it's a process that will take me at least another two weeks, many more pages, and then some more weeks as I dive into actually writing the damn thing, because I have to do that sometime.
And while that's going on, I'll just keep working and hope my future not-Moleskines will someday look like this.