Shrinking the Viewfinder

I was writing the other day and remembered– for the first time in a long while– why I loved it so much.

The joy of creation.

Having everything and anything be possible.

Being responsible for selecting the exact right word to make something powerful.

The wonder.

So many things have been stealing the wonder in recent years: deadlines and contracts, envy, comparing myself to other writers, everything to do with Twitter, anxiety, pressure, loss of confidence.

Somehow I had convinced myself that I needed to write a perfect book. I’m not even sure such a thing exists.

Instead of working on the next sentence or the next paragraph, I’d gotten consumed thinking of the big picture, which is enough to collapse almost anyone.

Anne Lamott always talks about “small assignments,” but I couldn’t shrink my viewfinder to that. She keeps an empty picture frame at her writing desk– I think it’s one inch by one inch. She tells herself to focus only on what can be seen in that frame.

I’ve never known how to write a book besides emptying myself of sentences until the right sentences end up on the page. Then rearranging the sentences until they are in the right order. If there is a wrong way, I will take it first. I will take 400 wrong ways before I find myself and my story pointed in the right direction, and then I’m shocked and amazed.

And yet, I’ve somehow been telling myself not to move until I’m sure it’s the right direction.

That might work for some people, but it’s never been my M.O.

Time stressed me out. Comparison made me miserable. I took all the things that I know work for me and decided they weren’t “right” … and all that happened was that I became paralyzed.

I want to pretend like I’m writing a first draft– where there are no rules and nothing matters except having fun with the story.

I’m gonna re-post my First Draft Manifesto, then cling to it like a life preserver.life preserver.jpg

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