I posted the below on my Facebook wall, but I think I want it here, too, so I can more easily refer back to it as I write the memoir.
"When we cleaned out my grandmother's house many years ago, she had labeled all sorts of stuff--belt buckles, souvenir spoons, vases, nicknacks--letting us know who gave them to her and / or when and / or where. But reading a book today that she owned, she scribbled in a margin where she was baptized, on the Washita River, where Cheyenne chief Big Jake camped after allotment in 1892. This is also the same river, further upstream, where Black Kettle's body was found after Custer massacred that Cheyenne peace chief's village in 1868. My grandmother was washed clean of her sins in a river filled with them."
I know what the first chapter will be, and I want to write it this very second, but I'm holding off until I gain more perspective from the last of my research. I know once I start writing, I won't stop. It's like a can of Pringles, or so the ads tell me.
I have less than 1,000 pages left to annotate, having completed my reading this week, then I can begin organizing about 100 sources, quotes, and info into topics:
Great Plains flora and fauna
History of Mennonites
History of the Cheyenne
Family stories and anecdotes
Oklahoma history, cultural and geologic
General quotes / possible epigraphs
You get the idea. This way as I'm writing I can just pull up a word document and quickly dip into whatever source material I need, paste it in, and move on. Nothing is more killer to the writing process than having to stop for any length of time. I even find the space bar and return key very very very annoying and disruptive. You should see the number of folders on my desktop, the amount of books and papers in my office. Being organized, or trying to be, is the only way to approach a messy and large project. And a paper trail may come in handy later on if someone (a publisher? maybe?) wants a fact checked, or some authority calls into question something. I wonder how often that happens to others.