Ten years ago when I wrote The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, I suggested people use sticky notes for story idea lists. Right now I’m in the process of drafting a revised version of that book. After eight years the last print run sold out. I realized that my thinking on several topics has changed, along with my writing style. While the book is still valid, I realized it needed to be freshened up. Rather than slip it into Print-on-Demand status, the publisher and I decided to put it to bed with honors.
It’s taken me over a year to commit to making a second edition happen. I started to revise the existing manuscript, then concluded that it needed to be ripped back to the studs. After more wheel spinning, I’ve created a new vision, a new folder, and a new manuscript, starting from scratch. This is not the same book. I’m pondering new names.
When I realized I was spinning my wheels, I started listing key concepts on sticky notes. That wasn’t working well for me. Recalling how easy it is to rearrange PowerPoint slides, I started outlining that way. That was better, but still limited. Outlining in Word seemed to help, and I set back to work on my manuscript. But as I wrote, I kept thinking of things that weren’t on the outline, and I didn’t know where to put them.
I thought of sticky notes again, this time with a new twist. Instead of paper stickies on a printout, I tried digital stickies on my onscreen outline page. Eureka! They’re magic. You can see a few in the screen captured image above. I can move them around, put them over text, stack them up. I even color coded them. I love these stickies!
I hear you wondering, what’s the secret? How does this work?
I discovered a long time ago that you can enter text inside shapes, effectively turning them into text boxes. I drew a rectangle and typed in my note. The secret to putting them on top of text is defining Word Wrap. That’s on the ribbon’s Format tab. You only see the Format tab when you click on an image. Click on that tiny arrow next to Text in Wrap Text and select In Front of Text.
I wanted my notes to look more like real stickies, so I did five things:
1) Clicked on Shape Fill on the format tab. A simple fill color would do, but I made a gradient with a slightly lighter color at the end and used a radial fill with the highlight down to the right. You might see it if you look hard. If this is beyond you, stick with solid colors. They’re fine.
2) Added a hint of shadow to make them stand out from the page. That’s on Shape Effects > Shadow.
3) Created a style for the text. I want them to look hand-written, so I used the Andy font (free to download). It’s easy to read and see. I set Andy at 12 pt. and made it black. If you need help with styles, search YouTube for “Create new style, Office 2010” or whatever you’re using. In five minutes or less, you’ll know everything you need to know.
4) Right-clicked on the edge of a box then selected Set as Default Shape. New boxes will have this same fill and shadow. I still have to set the text style for each.
5) Copied a box and pasted several around, then made new gradient fills for three. As you can see, I made extras. Now I can copy a blank the color I want to use for new notes.
I plan to stick hundreds of these everywhere. I like them better than Word’s comments. They have a hand-crafted feel. If I need a bigger one, or a smaller one, I can change the shape by clicking and dragging a corner circle to make it the size I need. As I finish with each, I can delete it, or stack them up in a corner somewhere.
By the way, you see that blue one that’s rotated a bit? When you click on a note, you’ll see a round “handle” appear. Click on the empty circle and slide it in a circle to rotate the note. If you want precise control, find the
size tab on the Layout menu (click the tiny arrow next to Size on the format ribbon). You can rotate by single degrees.
One final thing – if you need to put a note on top of another and it wants to stay below, open the format tab and Bring Forward or Send Backward. The arrows beside those terms give you the option to Send to Front or Back.
Spend a few minutes to make yourself a stack of stickes and discover for yourself how they can unlock your creativity and unblock your project.
Meanwhile, expect to see more posts derived from new book content.
P.S. I experimented further and discovered you can do the same thing in LibreOffice, an offshoot of OpenOffice, though with slightly less finesse. Have fun!