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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

One Giant Leap for Writing, One Small Step for Writers

article-2149979-04817D530000044D-240_306x423Resistance and overwhelm are old friends. Nothing can freeze the creativity right out of your brain or send you running away from your writing in search of a distraction, any distraction, as fast as contemplating the enormity and complexity of a big writing project. The bigger the dream, the bigger the resistance.

But there’s an easy solution. Just remind yourself that no one ever takes a really big step. Not really.

Huge things are accomplished by an accumulation of small “I can do this” steps, each one following logically from previous small steps. The last step, which is the most visible to outsiders and therefore looks huge, is usually pretty much the same size as the first step.

Even the giant leap for mankind was just one small step for Neil Armstrong.

The bigger the accomplishment, the more little steps are needed and the more people are involved to take their small steps. Neil Armstrong didn’t get to the moon in a single leap and he didn’t get there alone.

Even Creative Leaps?

The flash of creative insight might look like a huge spontaneous leap of intuition, but that big, gratifying “A-ha!” is always preceded by a whole lot of little, seemingly insignificant steps, one after the other.

The “A-ha” can’t happen without all the “what if’s”, “how about’s”, “why not’s” and all the dead-ends, u-turns and restarts that lead to that insight. And without taking action on all the “now what’s” that follow it, the “A-ha” is pointless.

summit canstockphoto1902224 (2)How Do You Climb a Mountain?

Your big writing dream – a novel, short story collection, memoir, screenplay or chapbook, or publishing a piece in the publication you admire, or consistently posting to your blog, or whatever – is your mountain.

You can spend all your time staring up at the mountain, marveling at how high it is, how dangerous the weather looks, how amazing the people who climb it are. You can keep yourself frozen in place thinking about what a big deal it is.

Or you can bring your gaze back to the trail right in front of you and start walking, one step at a time.

Of course, you have to have courage and commitment. It’s smart to have a map, guide and companions you trust. It’s important to have the supplies and equipment you’ll need when you start and to know where and when you can replenish those supplies.

But it all comes down to taking the next small step. And the next small step. Step by step, day after day.

What’s your next step?

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2 Comments on “One Giant Leap for Writing, One Small Step for Writers”

  1. Joel D Canfield May 3, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    So easy to forget. This is the kind of commonsense stuff that we all lose track of. This was on my mind this morning, how habit and baby steps just might be the most important things a writer can know.


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