Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday's Reflection: Little By Little, Step By Step

I had one of those "I might as well give up" moments again the other day. This fall I took an excellent online writing class through The Loft Literary Center, https://www.loft.org ,"Your Book Starts Here" taught by Mary Carroll Moore. Doing the work for that class propelled me from envisioning and imagining the book that has been in my head for quite some time to the first stages of writing it. The class is over, Moore's weekly blog http://howtoplanwriteanddevelopabook.blogspot.com, however, helps keep me on track with its suggestions and exercises. Usually.

Last week's post cautioned before spending much time structuring a book, it is wise to have about 90,000 words of free writing or rough unrevised drafts. I thought I had about 60,000 words, but after checking my drafts I discovered I only have about 28,000. EEEK!

Immediately, I spiraled out of commitment into despair and discouragement, disillusionment. Lots of "dis" words.

I left my garret office wondering why I was wasting my time. After all, lots of people my age are more than content to move through their days without any big shining purpose to guide them, motivate and stimulate them. I could do that, too. Why am protecting my mornings for writing? Think of all the book shelves and drawers I could reclaim, if I donated my writing books some place and shredded my files. I'm in my mid-60's, and maybe I don't have the kind of energy or time left to accomplish what I have set before myself. 

Yes, I tend to get a bit dramatic. 

The next morning I went right back up the stairs to my garret and re-introduced my writing self to my disgruntled and despondent self. I remembered Anne Lamott's words about facing big projects, "Bird by bird. Just take it bird by bird." Bird by Bird, Some Instructions of Writing and Life, p. 19. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Lamott

Yup, I needed to move forward word by word. Morning by morning. Day by day. Page by page. This was not the time to focus on all the words not yet written, but instead, the 28,000 I have written already, even though they await drastic revision. This was the time to focus on the current word, the one coming out of my fingertips in the present moment. 

And so I did. This past week I wrote almost 5,000 words--word by word--and, of course the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write and the more ideas I had, and the deeper commitment I felt, and the more possible this project seems. 

Over the weekend my husband and I went to see the movie Wild based on the book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed http://www.cherylstrayed.com about walking the Pacific Coast Trail by herself. In many scenes Reese Witherspoon, who plays Strayed, stops to look at the trail stretched out in front of her, and you can see on her face the temptation to give up. Somehow, however, she takes the next step and the one after that and on and on until she makes it months later to her destination.  Step by step.

Obviously, I have not had my last experience of falling into the "dis" words nor was it the first. You might recall an earlier post in which I was tempted to disown myself as a writer.  http://clearingthespace.blogspot.com/2014/11/thursdays-reflection-am-i-writer.html For now, however, I am on the path again, remembering that each step is preceded by a previous one, and each step adds on to the steps before and the steps to come. What is easier to recognize at this stage of my life is that my goal to write a book is not so much about accomplishing the goal as it is about writing the book, word by word, learning as I go, digging into clearer understanding of who I was created to be and forming a deeper relationship with Creator God.  

Mark Nepo says, "Little by little, the way the hundredth drop of water opens a seed…Everything on Earth moves by this inching between ease and pain. It's how we grow. And praising both, surrendering to both, accepting both is the work of love. The Endless Practice, p. 116.  http://www.marknepo.com

Perhaps you have a "bird by bird" in your life, although it may be drawer by drawer or box by box as you attempt to organize and simplify your home. Or perhaps it is pound by pound or class by class. Or conversation by conversation as you attempt to forgive or seek forgiveness or restore or deepen a relationship that matters to you. Whatever is in front of you, calling you, can only be experienced step by step. 

An Invitation
What in your life needs to be divided into smaller increments? What are the bird by bird lessons waiting to be revealed and practiced in your life? I would love to know. 



  1. For me, it is twig by twig as we create our new nest!

  2. And such a wonderful nest you will have!


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