When You Need a Miracle: For Writers Wearing a Lot of Other Hats

XmasTreeThis is a magical time of year. Everyone in my family has a cold; I can’t hear anything except the sloshing in my head. It snowed this year, but most of us in Berkeley weren’t dreaming of a white Christmas, and the idea that global warming might in fact be leading to strange climate change haunted the ecstasy of building small snow-people with my children a mile from our house. My clients are panicking, packing, moving (more than one!), trying to pull of being Santa (even the Jewish ones because everyone’s in an interfaith relationship) and vaguely wondering how writing is supposed to fit into all of this celebrating.

Here are five sure-cure tiny miracles, when the colorful lights glimmering in the distance hail from the top of a police car:

1) Write a sentence. Just one. You can do it on a post-it if you want to. Or in your journal, if you can find it. Or on a napkin. Just. Write. One. Sentence. Ah . . .

2) Give someone a sentence as a gift. Say, “I wrote this sentence for you. Here.” Then read it to them.

3) When your hands are full–of groceries, plumbing tools, children, tissues, moving boxes–daydream about your book. Ask your storyteller for a little tale about your characters and let it wash over you. The world in your head is still growing even if your manuscript is not.

4) Ask for time as your holiday present. An hour in a cafe with your laptop. A bubble bath with your journal and favorite pen. Ask your partner, ask your children, ask yourself. Take the yes and run with it!

5) In any given moment when your story world seems miles away, take a moment to discover three things:

1) human passion, right there in the room with you, in the fight between your kids, in your partner’s insistence on checking email, in the way the dishes stack up because of our ceaseless and delighted appetites.

2) obstacles, the meaty stuff of plot, right there in the street with you, in the bus that doesn’t stop, the parking place that doesn’t emerge,

3) human dilemmas, the choices that seem insurmountable in the grocery store, in the few minutes and many responsibilities of your day, in the way that you are pulled in so many directions because you want to write and want to pull of your holiday celebrations and even want something to make for dinner tomorrow night . . .

You are learning and growing as a writer all the time. See? To master creating trouble you have to live through some and keep connected to your writing self  . . .

What miracles do you want? What miracles have you stumbled across?Please post a comment and let me know!

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  1. This made my day. I’ve been feeling like one of those criminals who have their face pushed up against a wall like a cop. Now to breathe! And write!

  2. @Judith–I’m so glad! Breathe your way back to YOUR work and YOUR storyteller!


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