I am way overdue on grocery shopping. If you’re main food buyer in your family, you’ll understand this: I’ve been at different stores in the last week, but I haven’t done a comprehensive, well-planned shopping; I’ve just been skirmish shopping, where I pick up those things we really need (milk, bread) and some stuff for dinner.
So I woke up this morning and realized I had nothing definitive planned for dinner and no car access for the day. That’s not good. People in my family have come to expect regular meals. I didn’t even have my back up pasta and ready-made sauce, because we used it last week! Yikes.
I just did a pantry patrol. At first, I didn’t see anything promising. But as I took the time to look at everything on the shelves, I realized I had a lot of different pieces. A box of farfalle pasta. . .diced tomatoes. . .some canned veggies. . .hmmm. I’m not promising anything gourmet, but I think I can make dinner happen tonight. Whew, crisis averted.
Writing is like that. I might approach the next chapter feeling as though I have nothing in the pantry that will make something appealing. But then as I look at all the pieces, it comes together. A character surprises me. I think of a plot option that I hadn’t considered. And somehow it all comes together.
If meal planning has helped me in my writing, so has homeschooling. I’ve been doing that for over ten years, and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s that no matter how much I plan, life happens. Sometimes, on days when we’ve gotten a late start, or someone is not feeling well, or the house is a mess, I might be tempted to just let everything go and ditch school. But if I did that all the time, we’d never get anything done. So instead, on those days when it’s like swimming upstream, we just do the next thing. We do a page of math. Read a little history. Write some spelling words. Nothing elaborate, nothing earth-shattering. . just the next thing.
When I’m stuck on a manuscript that won’t move forward, I employ the same tactic. Do the next thing. Write mundane stuff. Sketch in some dialogue. Even if you’re not certain that what you write is what you want to write, do it anyway; you can always improve it or edit it out later. But do something; do the next thing.