“Baby Steps”–I find myself saying this lately–to myself and to other people. When I was younger, I was more of an all-or-nothing kind of person, which, in my case, usually meant a lot of nothing. I think I’d set myself up with this vision of the huge, end goal, which looked so huge I’d too often just give up on it. As I get older, I find myself trying to break those visions into little pieces, ones that feel much more doable. And, thus, get done.
For today’s Friday Five, I thought I’d share some ways I think baby steps can help us move along our writing paths.
1. They let us focus on the short-term and keep the long-term where it sometimes needs to stay: in the future. This means we focus more on writing and less on finishing big drafts, doing the agent search, and getting a published book. You know, until those ARE in the short-term.
2. They let you work on scenes, passages, paragraphs, dialogue–on the specific words you need to be putting on the page right then. As much as a fan of structure as I am, I do realize there are times you need to let go of the overall plot and the major character development. If you don’t have it all figured out, all that big-idea stuff can block the flow of the little stuff. Get the little stuff down and see what else it shows you. Eventually, all the little pieces will build to a big image.
3. They let you deal with critiques. When I talk about revision, I advise people to start with the small critique comments they’ve gotten–the yes/no questions and the little changes they know they can make right away. As you do this work, the bigger issues, the rest of that feedback, has time to simmer in your brain. When you get to it, and you will, you’ll be much more able to attack and revise.
4. They let you stick a toe into the marketing pond. Don’t sign up for a blog AND Facebook AND Twitter AND Goodreads AND Google+ all at the same time. Pick one, set up an account, and play–for a few hours, days, weeks, month. Whatever makes you happy. The things you learn will make the next social-networking site easier for you, if and when you decide to add it.
5. They let you say “yes” to new (ad)ventures, whether that’s a new project or an entirely new genre. Take a look at the first few things you need to do–are they manageable? Take them on, get through them, and then see where you are. My guess is you’ll be ready to do what’s next in line—a lot more ready than you would have been if you hadn’t already accomplished those first tasks.
Baby steps can feel slow, even sluggish, especially when we set them next to the whirlwind-brain that is telling us we have to do it all, right now, with perfection. I really believe in those baby steps, though, if not for your whole journey, than definitely for the first few steps in. Think about the tortoise and the hare. Or go back in time to playing Mama, May I: How many times did the person who took slow, careful baby steps end up crossing the lawn first–with all those giant-steppers still far behind?