“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
I’m opening with that joke because one: it’s pertinent, and two: joking is what I always do when coming back to old friends after a long while. I’m resurrecting this blog to be a weekly outlet for updates on my writing and thoughts on the process, and with the start of a new elephant before me: Five Talents.
I have a good friend, a fellow writer, who specializes more in short fiction. He finds novels tiresome and beastly to work on. Funnily, the very thing he finds ghastly about long form prose is what I like about it. I love the journey, the staying with and getting to know characters down to minute details that aren’t anywhere in your story.
I finished a year and a half long project called Beneath the Wood and self-published it on October 1. Since then, I took some time to try my hand at a short story “sequel” to Beneath the Wood (in the name of giving my friend’s short fiction game a try), and generally enjoyed relaxing in the warm glow of finishing the book.
Eating the elephant one bite at a time isn’t just a metaphor for attacking a huge task through steady incremental progress, it’s a metaphor for breaking down and approaching a project strategically, piece by piece. While you do need to give yourself some room to flex and to allow your creativity and instincts to surprise you with your writing, having a path and order of operations never hurts (legs first, then trunk, for example).
I’ll be digging a bit more into overall project management in posts to come, but for now the message today is the detail couched above: I finished Beneath the Wood on October 1, today is November 2. I started earnest work on my new project, Five Talents last night. I took a solid month off for video games, personal reading, concerts, and (less fun) some home renovations (which are still going, even less fun). In that time I asked myself numerous times why I wasn’t getting to work on the next novel sooner, but every time I did, I consciously told myself to relax and enjoy the time off.
I can’t put a finger on it to articulate it perfectly, but there was a particular kind of itch I was looking for. Not the itch of: “this needs to get going,” which I had numerous times last month. I was waiting for the subtly different itch of: “I need to get going.”
Writing is something I’m very passionate about, and it’s a part of who I am, but passion is a fire like any other. You don’t just dump gasoline on it to make it explode and burn out, the best fires burn through the night with proper patience and tending.
When you eat the elephant, do it one bite at a time and don’t worry about needing time between meals.
I’m back at the table and ready for the next order up.