Yarn, Sticky Notes and A Cat: If the First Attempt Doesn’t Succeed, Try Another Way

She ate it! She ate my work and left the evidence trailing down the wall, across the desk, over the floor, and down the stairs leading all the way to the front door like a smug “Ha! try again Mom!”

Sage, my cat. Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

My cat, my buddy who sits on my desk and watches me type, ate my timeline! Disappointment! Frustration! Failure!

I thought I’d found a way to overcome my issues with outlining a book. You see, I’m a visual learner. I retain details when I can see and interact with events. So a story that’s all in my head I have to, somehow, make more visual before I retain the ‘little’ details that lend a story texture.

To that end I’d strung yarn across the wall, put scenes on sticky notes and placed them in sequence along my ‘timeline’ of yarn.

So the wall wasn’t big enough to encompass a 100,000+ word story, but it was better than any other attempt I’d tried. It got me about one tenth of the way into the story.

So my sticky notes started to loose their battle with gravity and fluttered to the floor. I could just stick them back up and add tape if needed.

But my cat eating the yarn! That was the last straw, as it were. Space and gravity didn’t dissuade me but my cat’s infernal interest with all things string did me in. I scrapped the attempt of a yarn and sticky note timeline…

I shouldn’t dwell on this failure, however. The trick is to accept what’s happened and learn from it so that, when I try again, I might succeed. I advise you to try the same.

Two Einstein quotes are useful to keep in mind:


“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

and two

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

If we learn nothing from our failed attempts, we will continue to fail and might just be insane.

However, if we pay attention, we learn what did not work and can move on to another attempt. One failure, or ten or a thousand, should not convince us to give up on our dreams.

So finding a good way to make a book outline visual is an ongoing process for me…

I had one failed attempt, but I learned, if I can see the outline written by hand, it helps but I need something big enough to encompass the entire story. And I need something that doesn’t draw my cat like a moth to light.

So, the next time I’ll try a large paper pad such as a teacher uses. (My poor husband will probably have to deal with these pages taped to our walls, maybe even the ceiling, but, bless him, he doesn’t mind such antics.)

So I encourage you, don’t give up simply because you’ve had a hiccup. Assess what happened, figure out why it didn’t go as planned, and move on with your new knowledge making your next attempt that much more likely to succeed.



P.S. What have you tried that didn’t work? What’d you learn? What will you do differently next time? Encourage each other to keep trying.

7 thoughts on “Yarn, Sticky Notes and A Cat: If the First Attempt Doesn’t Succeed, Try Another Way”

  1. Now where do you suppose all these note ideas came from? Any old napkin will do, or the band around utensils, or ripped off piece of cardboard or…, Remembering to date them seemed to be the problem when it came time to order each and every one. Maybe adding some flavor to the note will help the Sage with digestion and … Keep these coming!

    1. Ah, yes, napkins have often held random ideas for me! The issue lately is, if sage isn’t tearing notes off the wall, Onyx is chewing on the edges of all my papers. He put a hole right through one of my outlines! Perhaps they need more fiber in their diets=)

  2. Not trying to start trouble with the hubby, but staples and office max out here sell HUGE sticky notes. They are like 2ft by 3ft!!!!
    Just a thought. And you can just say you’re wallpapering the room! 😉

  3. i too am a visual learner….that’s why i was sooooo glad when i got my new office at work…i came with a white board!!!! don’t use it that much, but when i need it!!!!!! 😀

    1. That’s awesome! My husband’s thrown out the idea that when we actually own a house, he’ll set up an office for me with a white board, maybe even a smart board so I can move between board and computer with ease. *Sigh*. But for now, I make do with sticky notes and large pieces of paper=)

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