Saturday, February 2, 2013

Writing Advice for Life

I've recently been reminded how much I love Anne Lamott.  I dusted off my copy of Bird by Bird recently and started re-reading it again.  For those of you who don't know it, it's a book on writing. It's not a book on grammar or how the f*ck to use a semicolon, but a book on the process on writing. It's also an instruction manual for life. It says that on the cover, and I found out it's true.

For those who are stuck, or can't seem to begin on a writing project, Lamott suggests looking at a one inch picture frame and then write everything that would fit into that frame. If your setting is New Mexico, you might begin by describing how the sky looks as the sun sets against the Sandia Mountains. Then you might describe the house of the main character. And then the character's wooden leg. And so on and so on.  You take it one piece at a time until you can string them together and you have a story.

It's great advice and it got me unstuck recently. I was able to begin some changes to my novel, one square inch at a time.

Imagine my surprise when I was also able to apply this to a very stressful week at the day job.  I was feeling overwhelmed and ready to seek out other bill paying options. Then finally, after much internal turmoil, I decided to tackle what I had in front of me, one square inch at a time.  And it worked.  As soon as I stopped feeling paralyzed by the enormity of the whole picture, I was able to focus and get things done, one at a time.

I know it seems like easy advice that I should remember all the time, but my mind doesn't work that way. I have to get stressed out before I remember to take it one inch at a time. Hopefully each time, I spend less time stressing before I remember the answer.

Now if I can just figure out the rules for the semicolon.

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