Writers sometimes co-opt maxims, one of our favorites being, “If you want to make God laugh, show him an outline.” This is in deference to all my outlining friends, at whom God is certainly not laughing – though even most outliners confess that there often comes a moment when the Grand Plan is amended, and then amended, and then amended again. I do not know how it could realistically be otherwise. No matter how many books you’ve written, each is like its own life venture. Whether it’s deciding to write and hopefully publish that first novel, or start an online magazine, or open a yarn shop, there is always that moment soon after the idea takes root in your heart where you squint into the future and realize you have no idea how to get where you believe you want to go. You’ve never gone there before, and so you do not know the way, and so the dream can feel doomed from the outset.
Here is where we must retrieve our attention and ask ourselves, “What is one thing I can do right now?” Every step you take, whether it is buying a book on writing or searching Craig’s List for available retail space, will suggest another step, just as Hemingway’s “one true sentence” can lead to another true sentence and so on. It is unnecessary and impossible for us to know the whole. Even if we outline our novel, we cannot know every word until we have written them.
Our job, then, is not to know how to get where we believe we want to be, but to know where we are right now. Frustrating, I know, because sometimes right now feels unworthy of our full attention. But perhaps that is because we are not seeing it clearly. Perhaps our desire to see this wonderful future, a future where things we plant will grow and all our ideas bloom, is merely a misunderstood desire to see ourselves. If this is so, we are lucky indeed, for each of us can easily be found where we already are.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.