I'm sitting here half-watching ‘Supersize Me' — an American documentary about the perils of fast food, especially when served in extra large helpings. And the themes raised by the film are reminding me of Jerry, who asked for help because his novel, begun with gusto last year, had stalled.
In talking to Jerry, it became clear that he was trying to make his book do too much. A spy thriller with a compelling anti-hero for a protagonist, it was also attempting to be a love story and a family drama. At 180,000 words, he felt he was still only half way through. Great material was being swamped by bloated subplots and extraneous themes. And though he knew where he wanted the book to go next, he kept procrastinating and was getting very little done.
Jerry had bitten off more than he could comfortably chew in one mouthful but was resistant to the idea of breaking the material down into more digestible bits. He had a deep need to say all that he had to say… and now.
It took some months of making very little progress before he came round to seeing that this very want was what was giving him his painful writers' block.
In trying to say it all, he wound up unable to say anything.
It's a common blocker. And not just in writing. Thinking about all that we have to/want to do, we feel exhausted or defeated — and never get started.
Or trying to do it all, we become scattered and distracted, constantly plagued by the next ‘to do', deriving no satisfaction from the doing, or from what we have already done.
Truth is: we don't need to – we cannot – know it all. We just need to know enough. We don't need to – cannot – say or do it all. Enough is enough.
So go small.
When we do, when we work from wanting or knowing or saying or doing just what is sufficient, no more, a funny thing happens.
We find that small contains all.
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