A long time ago, I watched a writing student struggling with all the usual excuses (“I don’t have the time! I don’t have the energy! I’m not talented! I don’t know how!) change completely as soon as he thought of himself as a character he was writing about in a story about the early days of a successful writer.
Bang. Instantly, he understood EVERYTHING that can stop accomplishment, and began to organize his imagination to see how he could turn problems into advantages.
He could take his lunch to work, and write at his desk. He could trade household chores with his wife, swapping intensity (heavy work) for time-intensive work. He could get his kids turned on by the idea of having a published writer in the family.
Suddenly, it became an adventure. I mean…if you remember ANY movie or story about someone who succeeds, you know there will be twists and turns, setbacks, betrayals, fear, fatigue, moments that they almost gave up. THAT’S STORY. That’s the big cycle of story–each of these as “major moments”.
In “Wonder Woman” there are major moments of threatened defeat, loss, betrayal. But most of any story…and most of our lives…is just “the road of trials”, which is this larger cycle in smaller form, repeated again and again.
Wonder woman arrives in London
Her goal: to reach the Front so she can kill Ares
Her obstacle: Steve Trevor has to take the journal to the high command.
Her reaction: She feels betrayed, reminds him that a promise cannot be broken
Her ally’s reaction: He promises to take her to the front as soon as he fulfills his duty
Her reaction: She agrees.
Next obstacle: She cannot walk the streets of London dressed as she is.
Her ally’s reaction: Let’s get her appropriate clothing…
And so it goes. EACH of these steps could be turned into a major problem just by expanding or deepening the intensity, swinging the story this way or that. Here, they are just moments, exchanges of dialogue.
They are the dynamics of story, which means the dynamics of life. Micro-cycles within macro-cycles.
The advantage of writing short stories is that each of them is a micro-cycle of a full macro-cycle novel. EVERYTHING you need for a novel is there, but in the smaller form you can focus on smaller things without being overwhelmed by hundreds of pages of text. It is dealing with a single tree rather than an entire forest.
THIS is the strength of the “Machine”, the idea of starting with writing only a single sentence a day, the smallest practical micro-cycle. If you can write a sentence a day, you can springboard this to a book a year, because you will run into every possible obstacle, internal and external:
- I don’t have time
- I don’t know how
- I don’t have anything to say
And on and on. Master your internal voices, you produce the external result. Produce a sentence a day for a few days, you automatically begin to produce more. BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO. No guilt connected with not doing that.
Your ego will go crazy trying to find a way to stop you, sabotage you. But because there is NO logical reason not to write one sentence a day, you will meet the lies that have stopped you in every arena of your life, and begin to make the internal/external connection.