Right now my husband and I are on the fun and stressful journey of buying a house. In the past few weeks I’ve had more mental breakdowns than I care to count, but I know when we finally move into a place (okay after we move in) I’ll be able to breath easy. Until then, I’ve adopted the mantra “step by step.”
It’s so simple it’s almost silly, but I’ve found this to be so successful for my personal life that I’ve adapted it to my academic and writing life as well. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with the idea of writing a book or a screenplay. You can’t just create a character, you have to know a character. You can’t just create a plot, you have to make sure it’s believable and a situation your character would find themselves in. These elements can start to pile up and threaten to bury you under, so I’ve put together a few steps that will separate the elements and help you take your writing step by step.
Step 1: bury the hatchet
Get away from anything that’s holding you back. Let go of insecurities with yourself and problems with anyone else. You’re going to need to fit into the body of your character, and you can’t do that if you’re weighed down by your own life.
Step 2: break it down
Create a writer’s toolbox. We did this in one of my graduate courses and I found it extremely helpful. Put together a list of the elements you need to write a book (setting, characters, plot, etc.) and write down what will help you develop those elements. For instance, print up a couple Proust Questionaires you can use for character development. Have them with you wherever you go. The same goes for plot outlines. If you haven’t read Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering and Story Physics, then get off my blog and order them ASAP. They definitely changed the way I write.
Step 3: remember to breathe
By now you’re ready to write, and you may have already hit a snag that makes you want to chuck your computer out the window. Resist the urge! The best thing you can do for yourself during this process is to breathe. Make yourself some tea (preferably something without caffeine) and calm down. You will get through this, and it will be messy. Heck, it may even be ugly. But that’s what editing is for. So when you’re feeling murderous, breathe. Step away until your heart rate is normal. But don’t forget to get back to work. Take it step by step. The stress is only temporary. The relief will last much longer.
What else do you do to keep yourself moving step by step?