Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Thousand Miles

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." ~ Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

That Lao-tzu was a pretty smart cookie - as evidenced by the fact that we're still quoting him some 2500 years later. This saying is often batted around by someone who's about to embark on a Herculean task.

Like, for example, writing a novel.

I love writing. Ask anyone who knows me what I did most often as a kid, and they'll tell you my nose was either in a book, or buried in a manuscript of my own making (even if I didn't know that's what they were called, back then). But writing is hard. I have often said that the minute I set myself a concrete "I will ..." sort of writing goal, I would rebel at the obligation and, therefore, not fulfill it.


This year, I took a chance at breaking up my yearly "one book" goal to a page a day, something more concrete than I have done since beginning to write professionally. I have been keeping to my piddling page-a-day goal, and for the past week, have written more in that span than I have in some thirty-day stretches. How? Because a page is one step. It's nothing. I can put one page of words down without worrying about more than one page of words. And trust me, even for a professional procrastinator - er, author - those words add up. I've been keeping track of my efforts with the progress bar to the right, and I'm seeing that bar fill up - a most satisfying visual carrot, and I highly recommend it.

For anyone struggling with that phantom writer's block, or middle-of-the-book syndrome, or crucial turning point in your story, try this method. Just write a page. I'm finding that it's becoming a habit by repetition, the same as brushing my teeth each morning. Moreover, my writing is getting better. The more habitual my daily page is, the less I find myself focusing on the number of words I'm writing. Then it becomes a focus on plot and characterization. The words are coming, but now, spitting them out is intrinsic, and they're almost a side effect of my plotting and character-building. This may be the switch I needed to turn off my internal editor - the one who says "No, don't write that, it's terrible and here's why" - and let the words flow without interference.

Worked for me. Maybe it'll work for you, fellow writers. Take your first step!

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