I’m a writer, and I know a lot of my blog readers are writers too, so you’ll have to excuse me while I redirect our focus to math for a moment.
1 + 1 = 2, and that’s not a lot. But if you + 1 over and over and over again, you end up with a lot. If you need to walk a mile, walking 1/8 of a mile 8 times will get you there. If you want to write a 60,000-word manuscript, 1,000 words a day for two months will do it. If you have 200 hours of revisions to complete and you work for 4 hours, you only have 196 left.
Showing up. It’s as simple– and as difficult– as that.
Theoretically we know that all those little moments of work will add up to a completed piece of art, but I think the bigger problem is that we artists are so often filled with such dreadful self-doubt that we sabotage our own equations.
What if the next four hours are a waste?
What if I write ten thousand words that are total crap and unusable?
What if I do all this research for nothing?
It can be paralyzing. I know there are times where I’d rather just avoid-avoid-avoid than do something that is going to be a waste.
But the truth of the matter is that the creative process needs those parts too. If you’re a writer, you’re going to write a bad first draft, you’re going to write words that will get cut– maybe even whole scenes, whole chapters, you’re going to go down rabbit holes that are dead ends. That’s just a part of the process.
Some writers know that it takes them a while to warm up, so they’ll make a practice of writing several throwaway pages before they roll up their sleeves for real work. When I get stuck, I make myself freewrite– write without thinking or trying or self-editing– and a lot of times, that’s when the gems spill out.
A lot of times, it’s hard for me to get started, especially when one writing session feels like I’m barely making a dent in things. But session upon session upon session adds up.
Regarding OCD, I love the quote, “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” The same rings true for writing.
Image credit: Rubin 110 on Flickr
I like the 1 + 1 math analogy, it applies to a lot of things in life. I can apply the math to advising people how to leave abusive relationships and start again. Thanks for sharing.
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It does add up. It’s just so hard to put into practice sometimes!
Thank you for this post Jackie. It’s funny (not like haha funny) that I want my writing to just happen, like magic, and not be the build up of one word at a time. Maybe every hard thing that’s worth it is like that.
I want the magic too. I am terrified of this weekend because I have to say, “Screw magic,” and get my butt in the chair, sans magic. I’m trying to take my own advice.
Jackie, I feel like I say this a lot, but thank you so much for writing these truthful posts about what writing is really like. It has seriously helped me so much as I work through my own stages of the writing process.
Oh Alison, what a kind comment! Thanks, friend. Glad my posts have been useful!