Something versus anything

Yo know what the problem is with writing — why it’s so easy and then slows down.

At first, you’re not looking for anything in particular. You’re farting around, having fun, and ready to prize anything pretty you stumble on, any old shell or piece of sea glass. So you just noodle and enjoy yourself, and as soon as you come on something good, you pick it up. Hey, look at that pretty piece of turquoise sea glass.

Then … you have to find something else good that matches. So now, you aren’t just looking for anything good, you’re looking for something in particular. Your acceptability range has just gotten very, very narrow — it’s got to be not only pretty, but a particular type of pretty that goes along with what you now have in your pocket. A beautiful piece of orange shell? One that might have made you stop and wonder and start rooting around looking for stuff that matches had you found it first?

Nope. It doesn’t go with that piece of turquoise sea glass you found. Out it goes. The reason you found that sea glass so easily was because you were looking for anything nice. Now, it’s whatever you dig up got to go with that thing, so something that might have impressed you with its beauty had you found it first gets tossed.

Writing will always be hard. I still think it’s worthwhile to try the “just noodle for a month” exercise and see what happens, whether my noodling gets better, or whether I start being able to dig up bigger and bigger pieces of glass and shells … or whether I just keep picking up pebbles and accumulating them. By the end of the month, I will either turn up bigger interesting things, find a way to make smaller things fit better, or else just have a pocket full of diverse pebbles and nothing else to show for it. Let’s face it, a month isn’t a very long period of time in the grand scheme of things.

I think Montero just spent most of her toddlerhood accumulating pebbles and worked through that annoying stage of having pockets full of nothing useful while she was too young to care. Then … slowly … she racked up her 10,000 hours before she realized what she was doing.

At any rate, I have to be gentler with myself when I start out so well with something nice and then have it instantly turn into a grind. It’s much easier to find anything than it is to find something.