Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Word at a Time

The Writer's Almanac this past Sunday quoted E.L. Doctorow: "Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Recently I drove (in daylight) four hundred miles through a snowstorm, not a bad one as winter storms go, not enough to close the highways, but enough wind and snow to obscure the other cars at times and to blow snow onto the passing lane so that I clenched my teeth and the steering wheel whenever I passed a semi. But the trip was worth it to get where I was going, and when I wasn't white-knuckling the steering wheel and the snow parted for a few minutes the scenery was stunning.

A good friend and great writer says she asks herself to write for only ten minutes a day. That's enough to get her started but not so much as to feel overwhelming. Once she's started, she almost always writes on beyond those ten minutes, often for hours.

Fog, snow -- it's all tough driving. Don't think four hundred miles, think passing the next semi. Think ten minutes of writing. Think one scene at a time, one word at a time. Then write.

You'll get there, wherever there is. And you'll be glad you made the trip.

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