The Right Tools
When I left school I was an apprentice fabricator and coach-builder. I learnt to beat panels straight, to weld and fill, to paint and polish.
Later in life I worked as a car mechanic.
I’ve dismantled and re-built cars, motorbikes, lawnmowers, engines and gearboxes.
I’ve laid floors, bricks, slabs, turf and concrete.
Oh and I built a boat.
At work and at home DIY has been a way of life.
In all those years I’ve learned a lot. But one thing stands out.
If you’re going to do the job right you need the right tools.
As a mechanic the visiting ‘Snap-on’ tool van was never short of trade.
When we moved aboard ‘Gleda’ I was parted from one of my oldest and most treasured possessions. The red ‘Snap-on’ toolbox that had served me well for best part of 40 years.
There are few things I miss living afloat but my tools and a shed rank high.
So why do I bring this up?
It’s because I now consider writing to be my trade.
My hands may not get dirty and I don’t need the first-aid kit so often, but there’s still work to do.
This last week I’d been struggling. It felt like I was trying to undo a seized nut with the wrong sized spanner. It kept slipping, the nut wasn’t moving and my knuckles were bleeding.
I needed the right tool and it wasn’t in my box.
The internet is my new Snap-on van so I went shopping.
I found just what I needed and now the job has become much easier.
OK, enough with the mechanical analogies.
I’d been struggling because I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Damn, that’s another analogy isn’t it.
I’d been struggling because I couldn’t see how all the words I’ve produced these past months were going to form into something coherent.
Mind mapping had helped but I realised it wasn’t enough. I still couldn’t see all the different strands of the story as one.
After a bit of research I found the tool I needed.
It’s called Aeon Timeline 2. Visual Timeline Software for Creative Writers.
I downloaded it, started entering some data and within minutes I could see how it worked.
A few days later I had some 220 events listed.
Here’s a screenshot to give you an idea.
You’re probably looking at that and wondering how on earth it’s made things any clearer.
To be fair I changed the view to get more into that screenshot. Once the data is entered though there are numerous ways to format and visualise it.
What I’ve done so far is enter different categories of information. Where I was living, where I was working, world events, personal events, blog posts I want to reference etc etc.
Because each event is dated (either a specific date or a range) I can look anywhere on the timeline and get an overview of everything that was happening at that time.
Look closely at the centre section of the screenshot and you can see that in August 1997 James Wharrams ‘Spirit of Gaia’ was about two thirds through her circumnavigation, I was living in Overseal, Tony Blair was PM, I was working at Gerflor and Princess Diana died.
That might sound a bit random, but to me those facts trigger all sorts of other memories. Those memories fuel the writing and because they’re time related that writing fits neatly into the framework of my book.
To be honest it’s quite addictive plugging different events into the software and then seeing connections.
The right tools make the job easier, they’re a pleasure to use, they make you a pro.
Aeon Timeline is a good tool to have in the box.