I love mantras. Not (just) those ancient words and sounds used in meditation, but the slogans or sayings that remind me of important things. I used to paste them up on my wall at college in a valiant effort to get out of bed early and win life. They’re handy little ways of fighting resistance and keeping myself on the path I want to walk. Here’s an awesome writing mantra for you:
One step at a time.
Pretty simple, eh? You’d be tempted to throw it out because it’s so simple and boring. Heck, it’s so boring that you can’t even cite who said it first. Everyone says it. But it’s one of few concepts that has truly had a measurable impact on my writing, my family, and my life in general.
I’ve got a great imagination, and that lets me feel how huge a huge project is. So when I sit down to write a 180,000 word novel, I can feel the weight of its impossibility. And then I think about the necessary sequel. And what after that? Holy crap what am I doing? This is too big! I’m not up to this at all!
But a little work every day gets the work done. One scene at a time. One step forward every day. I don’t need to feel 180,000 words on my back. I’ll deal with 500 at a time. At 500 words a way, the novel is finished in a year. It works with pretty much everything, too. I don’t think about raising my kids to be heros, I think about playing with them and being their hero today. I don’t think about publishing and getting rich and famous, I think about getting this one scene done tonight.
One step at a time. The best part is, it’s the only way to do anything anyway.