piece by piece

Writing is like decorating your Christmas tree.

Greg Fazekas
Dec 8, 2022
2 min read
unblock challengewritingcreativitycreator life
Unblock Challenge, Day 18.

I was sitting on my couch, staring into nothing, when my eyes focused on the Christmas tree ornaments I bought. And suddenly the idea for this blog hit me.

There are times when this Unblock Challenge is hard. Not because I don’t have things to say, but because building a habit is hard work. I’ve been known to give in to distractions, to be lazy, and it soaked into my brain so much it’s hard to change.

As I was sitting looking at the Christmas ornaments, I remembered Neil Gaiman’s advice for writers:

One word after another.

That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.

So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.

In a peptalk to young NaNoWriMo writers (and, if memory serves, in interviews) he likens writing to bricklaying.

A dry-stone wall is a lovely thing when you see it bordering a field in the middle of nowhere but becomes more impressive when you realise that it was built without mortar, that the builder needed to choose each interlocking stone and fit it in. Writing is like building a wall. It’s a continual search for the word that will fit in the text, in your mind, on the page. Plot and character and metaphor and style, all these become secondary to the words. The wall-builder erects her wall one rock at a time until she reaches the far end of the field. If she doesn’t build it it won’t be there. So she looks down at her pile of rocks, picks the one that looks like it will best suit her purpose, and puts it in.

This is what I was thinking about, looking at my Christmas ornaments. Obviously, they’ll become a fully decorated Christmas tree. But that process is exactly the same as writing a blog, a short story, a novel: you place one ornament on the tree, and repeat until there are no ornaments left to place.

At my day job, I’m often working on big projects with many tendrils into marketing, sales, product development… But still, most of my time is spent on writing a single sentence. Whatever writing you do, you don’t need to see the entirety of it. Just the sentence your currently writing. Or the word you’re currently on. Repeat, until there are no words left to write.

Still, getting started is hard. Looking at some ideas, or the prompts for this challenge, can feel overwhelming. Your mind races in a million different directions. Scope wobbles in and out, from too small to too large, and everything in-between. Anxiety sets in.

Stop. Take a deep breath. Write the next word. Repeat.

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