There are a handful of books I come back to whenever I’m in a writing bind. They are like a lucky shirt or an old pair of jeans – the things I slip into when I feel blah. They are my yoga pants.
I’ve been in a writing pickle lately. Overwhelmed and not sure where to start. So I turned to one of my all time favorite default books, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. She is one of my writing heroes and this book has the magical ability to pull me back from the edge of despair and remind me that when you are overwhelmed, just take it one chunk at a time.
She says in her book that if when you sit down to write and are bombarded by the mountain of laundry that needs to be done, or the dishes or that thing you needed to take care of last week that you forgot about until just now – when all that stuff comes to the surface, take a breathe and tell yourself all you’re going to do right now is write one small paragraph. One small paragraph of one small scene, perhaps the scene where we first meet your character at the bus stop. Or the moment your character walks into a restaurant and sees the woman he is going to marry, or maybe that moment you decided to quit your job and become – oh, I don’t know – a writer. The point is, take baby steps. Start with these little snapshots and allow the rest of the world to slide off your back as you fall into your groove.
This is where I convince myself that I did buy these yoga pants to work out in, I am working out my writing muscles. I know, bad joke…but it’s the truth. We all need those comfort items to go back to when we feel overwhelmed, those things that steady us in the turbulence and bring clarity in the fog. Consider your writing comforts, do you have a book that inspires you every time you pick it up and read that first sentence? What are your safety defaults in times of writing stagnation?