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 insain.

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.