1. Never Go To Bed without Your Notebook and Pencil
Keep plain paper (unruled) and writing instruments at the bedside to capture the images and ideas of those vivid but quickly fleeting dreams and visions.
2. Tape a Timeline to the Wall
Make a timeline by taping or stapling pages together to make it as long as you need. Display it at eye level so you can refer to it easily. Mark off the years, leaving as much space as you need to be able to insert data. Insert extra paper to the timeline as needed if you accumulate too much data for a particular time frame.
3. Maps Jog the Memory
Maps are extremely useful and help with visualization. They should also be easily available for viewing. If pinning to the wall is not an option, consider clipping the map to mat board and displaying on a table top easel. Use map pins or other removeable markers and make your own map key to show the cities and towns; vacation areas; important centers of trade and industry; military installations; and hospitals. These would also be most likely the areas where people from outlying areas would come to congregate for various goods and services or to recreate.
Over the years the National Geographic magazine has included regional maps in featured articles. In the 1970’s -1980’s regional maps of the U.S.A. included the Northeast; the Plains States; the West; the Southwest; the Southeast. These can often be found in thrift shops or used bookstores. Maps could be displayed together in order to show a wider ranging territory. In the past, travel by train was the norm for most, with buses taking up the shorter connecting routes, so make note of mode of travel and routes.
4. Keep the Research Manageable
Always carry paper and writing instruments in the car and on your person. Have some handy at every place where you may sit down at home. File the scraps and pages in folders labeled by subject. Keep a master file of the folder names. Keep track of your sources. Periodically it may be necessary to set up a temporary “war table”. From here you may launch a campaign to corral all unruly scraps of paper into their respective folders. Dismantle the war table and continue your research as usual.
5. Consider Taking a Drawing Class
Sometimes a brief sketch can suffice for words. The time spent sketching allows the mind to rest and wander. Perhaps while relaxed a fresh and wonderful thought will pop up. Capture it! And the best of luck in your endeavors.