When I sit down to write I find myself face to face with a forty eyed monster who answers to the nick name, O and it’s not the good type of Oh, but rather the sinister kind, the kind that lives in the fog. The villain called Overwhelm.
Overwhelm chastises me to know the answers before I ask the questions, to create endings before I’ve begun and to craft resolutions before the conflict. And wouldn’t you know it, silly, shame infested, writer wannabe me, listens to the tyrant O. And when I do, I catapult myself heart, soul and mind into writing a thesis for a 2,0oo page expose on world peace before I’ve confirmed the controlling idea. I outline conclusions before the research is complete and I live chapter 20 before I’ve gotten through chapter 15. And this is why, eventually I decide I will never write anything that amounts to anything and that death and daisies will visit before clarity and publication. And then I decide to jump off my deck, but before I do I want to make sure everything is in order. So I check my teeth in the mirror to make sure there is no food stuck in them and then I realize I can’t die with so many grey hairs so I pluck them . And then I realize it’s almost time to make dinner so I postpone dying until it’s more convenient and slump back to my computer and on the way I hear voices coming from the silverware drawer demanding they be organized right now!
And this is why I agree with my hero Anne Lamott that some of the best advice I’ve ever come across that pertains to both living and writing is summed up by E.L. Doctorow,”Writing a novel is alot like driving a car at night. You see only as far as the headlights, but you can make the entire trip this way.”
Lamott encourages writers suffering from writers block to imagine a one-inch picture frame. She instructs the overwhelmed to not get ahead of themselves, to write what they can see through the small frame. And when I follow her advice, Overwhelm visits less often, the silverware drawer is muted and my grey hairs become wisdom highlights. I write words that lead to sentences that form paragraphs. And before you know it, I’ve described a character I never met, driving up a road I’ve never taken, stopping at rickety barn I once dreamt about, who discovers what I’d always hoped to discover but never believed possible.
So when the forty headed monster ,Overwhelm shows up, I encourage you to take the wheel. Assume you’re driving down a country road in fog as thick as New England Clam Chowder. Fixate your eyes on the white line, commit to travel as far as the headlights will take you. Begin. Live. Write. Engage. Trust the path to unfold and the story to manifest
Slow down if you must, but never, ever forget that you can make the entire trip of a lifetime when trust is your travel companion.
What To Do When The Fog Rolls In?