Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
I spent the bulk of last week camping in and hiking around Bryce Canyon National Park with my husband and favorite tiny people.
|McKenna and Connor chilling our first night in the hotel.|
While camping and I are still on iffy terms with each other, I've come to really love hiking and all the cool stuff it allows you to see. Hiking can be a great adventure, but hiking with kids...well, there are times when I feel each step I've taken, and when each future step seems so daunting that I just want to sit down and call for the rescue helicopter to come put me out of my misery.
And isn't it the same our stories?
One day you feel swept away into the story, caught up in the beauty of it all, and another you're looking at your manuscript thinking, "Who thought this was a good idea? How many words do I have to write before I can let myself be done for the day?"
The first time I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, I was a senior in high school (it was assigned reading for my English class) and I was in the process of teaching myself how to write Real Novels. Like, ones that were longer than 10,000 words. It was daunting.
In the first chapter of the book, she talks about a report her brother had to write for school about birds, which he had put off until the night before it was due, and he was freaking out about how he was going to get it all done in time. Anne's father said to her brother, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."
Anne applies this to writing with the concept of giving yourself "short assignments." She says:
Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, Look, honey, all we're going to do for now is to write a description of the river at sunset...that's all we're going to do for now. We are just going to take this bird by bird. But we are going to finish this one short assignment.I think this is some of the best writing advice I've ever been given. It's talked me out of moments of despair where I'm thinking, "I have this huge mess of a story that needs to be edited within a month! How am I going to get this all done?!"
Usually it takes another cup of coffee, some deep breathing, and a reminder that I just need to focus on one task at a time. Same as hiking up a canyon with my kids. I just have to coax their little feet one step at a time until we reach the rim.
I left for vacation last week feeling overwhelmed by what would be waiting for me when I came home. I'm trying to get The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet edited and turned in, I'm teaching classes next week that I desperately want to go well, and it's birthday season in my family - four next week, including my husband's and my mother's.
Cue the deep breath and me reaching for the coffee pot.
Today, I need the reminder that I don't have to edit my entire book right this moment. Instead I just need to edit page 44. And when I've done page 44, then I can worry about page 45. Page by page. Bird by bird.
What about you? What's your "bird" for today? Consider posting it below, then coming back later and letting us know how it went.