I went with a friend to a writer’s conference — his first, which means it was his first time saying to himself and the world that he is a writer (in other words, a big deal!). Afterwards, we were talking about his two projects (not a man who does things by halves). He was asking a lot of questions about method, as if there were a magic method that would make the writing smooth and the manuscript finishable and require no false starts.
That characterization may sound mean, but the “is there any way to make this less overwhelming” impulse is strong and entirely human.
My answers were very unsatisfying. Because there are a multitude of ways to write and ways to start and to organize, but (unless you are the special-est special sunflower there is) none of them guarantee diddly-squat. Especially since my friend’s process for similar work is quite loose and involves a fair bit of discovery along the way, I suspect that his process for writing these books will be similar.
Can I confess something to you? I was feeling just the wee-est bit smug that, at this stage, having been writing with the goal of publication for 11 years, I’d never get blocked by the question of how to start.
Which is how I became the President of Potkettleblackistan.
Remember with me all the way back to December 31, 2014. My word for the coming year was PRACTICE…
Both in the sense of the things I want to work on: prayer practice, writing practice, dance practice. And in the sense that “we call it practice because we’re not that good at it yet” (something a dear friend who is a spiritual director said once, a couple of years ago, and I can’t get out of my head). So I will both go harder after my various practices, and be accepting of myself when I’m not that good at it. I will practice both patience and impatience, simultaneously (something one of the presenters at my November writing conference said).
So how am I doing on that?
Not very well. You see, I can’t get a handle on a time that will work for me — not because I’ve actually tried a number of different times, but because I can’t wrap my mind around a time. As if there were a magical time that I might choose that would make practicing my practices smooth and easy and consistent. [sigh]
I repent, dear friend, of my slight smugness. There is no way ahead that will solve all the issues in either of our writing or practices ahead of time. There is only the commitment to dive in and not abandon things when they get messy and require adjustment.
Perhaps now, after all this irritating self-awareness, I will actually start practicing my practices. And to give me a push, I’ll be reading my friend Ed Cyzewski’s latest, Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together.
How about you? Are you a Cabinet Member in Potkettleblackistan?
Feel free to share in the comments.