Monday, May 25, 2009

Mini Canvas

Two week’s ago I went to a local art shop to get some craft materials to prepare for the upcoming "Wreck This Journal" programme. (For details, please check here.) I saw this miniature canvas while making payment at the cashier. It brought me back to a writing tip which I learn from both Anne Lamott and Eric Maisel but only truly understood it lately.

In her book "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life", Lamott talks about the idea of short assignment. She uses the one-inch picture frame she put on her desk to explain it.

"It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being."

Maisel promotes a similar idea in "The Creativity Book: A Year’s Worth of Inspiration and Guidance." He calls it "chunking."

"A chunk is a manageable bit of writing …"

I always get overwhelm feelings when I begin writing a story. And one of the things which got me is the fact that I have x amount of words to get to the ending. No matter how many words I got written in a writing session, I would always say to myself: but I still have x amount to go. With such mentality, no wonder there have been so many unfinished stories in my files. My panic button is turned on 24/7. All I could see is the gigantic Mount Everest sixty million miles away and I was blind to the little route in front of me.

To have this tip worked for me, not only I needed to focus on the immediate writing task, I also needed to be totally present and forgetful the same time. The presence is the total emerging in the scene that I’m creating and to forget about what will happen next. By doing that I’m making the task small, hence manageable. And if I started to panic or worry, I just told myself that all I had to do was to finish the daily 200 words count or just finished this bit where the man was arguing with his wife. And then I could leave the story, go and enjoy a cup of Chai Latte til the next "chunk".

Fellow writers and creatives, what about you? Do you practice chunking on a mini canvas?

BTW, the mini canvas was so cute, I just have to have it! :)


Barbara/myth maker said...

Excellent advice. I was thinking about this stuff just today, as I was about to write what would have been a short piece, but I didn't write it down, just because it was a "chunk".

Angie said...

So true, doing creative chuncks rather than big blocks can help me focus more on the creative energy, like at the moment I am feeling slightly frazzled with too many ideas and not really doing much creatively.This is great advice, kind of like micro managing, one small canvas at a time!

sophie said...

Chunk writing is a much better way, I agree! I've even been known to break things down into word counts (800 words for this section, 300 words for that). In the end I don't usually stick to those word counts at all, but it gets me over that first hurdle: starting.

Holly said...

I sat here and saw so many great burbles of stories in that waiting and open canvas! And, I'm excited, very excited!

Hybrid J said...

Hi Barbara,

I used to have the same belief that a short piece as a "chunk" is better off leave alone until some other time ... then I never get around to do any work at all. It's only lately when I consciously practice "chunking" that I got work done. :) Good luck to your creative work!

Hybrid J said...

Hi Angie,

Glad you found the post useful to your creative work and what a great way to put it: one small canvas at a time. I like it! Best of luck to your creative work. :)

Hybrid J said...

Hi Sophie,

It seems like you're more of a well planned writer. Good on you!

At the beginning of working on STOS, I developed a writing regimen for myself, i.e. 200 words a day for 5 days / week. At the moment I'm on STOS # 3 and word count per day become easier. I usualy exceed the 200 words. I guess this mean that I have somehow developed a habit here. Also like what you said, it helped with kick off the writing. :D

Hybrid J said...

The storie are sure coming, Holly! :D