Along with the command to return to writing, I have these rules for writing:
- Produce something each session, staying until it is finished.
- Clear away distractions, especially food and the phone.
- Schedule the next session and suggest an intention.
This piece began with a very different idea and the simple desire to create something. It wouldn’t come. Not because of writer’s block, but because I thought I could just say, “Here we go!” and it would just work. It didn’t. I needed a framework in order to create, but to spend hours setting up wastes time. Three quick rules are enough to frame the process and lead to product. Three rules might be enough to change my life.
Change my life? Well, yeah. I’m not trying to get the supertanker into orbit. I’m just keeping it from running aground by changing direction. Life changes all the time, little by little, simply by choosing a direction.
I won’t be setting a goal. Those tend to become failures. I’m setting an intention for each session and following rules. Today’s intention is to draft at 750 words about changing direction, staying in the chair until it’s done. Then I’ll schedule the next session when I will edit this down to 500.
None of this guarantees success, but it makes it more likely that I will write my way to an interesting place. For years I’ve tried to get to that happy island on which I’m a writer making my living with words. I’ve struggled to reach that goal, but it’s the wrong way to go. Rather than plan the future, live the future is now. That’s not a Zen koan. Living now as I want to live someday allows me to get to the good work. I want to be a writer, so I should write. Duh. The rules and intentions get me writing, banging out finished product right now. What I’ll need months from now is anyone’s guess but mine. I’m not interested in guesswork.
My writing has been stalled. Today it’s not. I followed the rules, got something done. The third rule states that I should set a time to write again and give myself a plan for that writing. Tomorrow I begin drafting a piece about clutter. That’s as far as my plan goes. That and to pretty much always write on.