Show up before you are ready. It’s a practice, not a performance. Your job is to pick up your instrument and make some noise. In this case, it’s the sound of your pen scrabbling, scratching, or flowing across the paper.
This writing thing is all about pockets: pockets of time, pockets to hold small notebooks and pens, pocket-sized ideas, a pocket to hold the 30 words which are your daily prompts for the month. And when the clock hands swing around to your five-minute writing pocket, draw a word from the prompt pocket (or use one of mine, or even just look at what’s right in front of you), and start to write.
By write, I don’t mean craft the complex, well-developed thought that exists in iambic pentameter with subtle allusions to Greek mythology (sounds like a nice red wine, doesn’t it?) although if that is what arrives on the page, that would be okay.
I mean have a little conversation with yourself. A friendly one. Or at least a neutral one. Maybe you sit down and notice a pair of dice on the dining room table left behind when someone only approximately put away Monopoly last night. Spend 5 minutes asking questions and making up answers about the dice. No one is looking, no one is going to squeal if you fudge the facts. Maybe your dining room table becomes a booth in an all-night diner and your pen tells you a story that goes something like this:
Maybe these dice are loaded. Maybe a gambler, a conman, left this at this table. Maybe he had just seen the light and had decided to reform, to become a man of the cloth instead a man of the con. Perhaps he was the last person to sit at this diner booth, and it was here, moments ago, that he decided to lay down life of cheating, of always looking for an angle. An epiphany arrived that morning with his Denver omelette and hash browns. The sunlight coming through the greasy windows of the diner, blurring the edges of the outside world like some kind of vision. His sausages and eggs smelling like honest in a way that midnight booze and cigarettes never could.Something happened to this man in the time between the waitress pouring that first mug of filter coffee, asking ‘What can I get you, hon?’ and the decision to get up 35 minutes later and leave, along with a handful of coins and a few rumpled bills, his loaded dice.
And then you stop. What does it mean? Doesn’t matter right now. Who is it for? Doesn’t matter. Why did you write that? Where did it come from? Is it the beginning of something? At this moment, none of these questions matter. What matters is that you wrote today. If you have time, carry on. If not, stop. Smile kindly at yourself. Put the pen down, close the notebook, and go on with the day.
That’s it. Just show up. If you sit for five minutes and write ten words, so be it. You wrote. If you write three pages of scrawl that you can’t decipher, so be it. You wrote.
Here’s the thing: keeping small promises to ourselves is the best way I know how to build big tools like faith, trust and courage. And those tools will take you as far as you want to go on this or any other journey.