Week one: Have a plan. Hold it lightly.

It’s week one of 2019. Here at the Blue Garret, it’s a windy, wintry day. The seagulls have come inland from the ocean to wheel around the park I can see from the kitchen window, which means we’re in for a gorgeous, gusty rainstorm. 

I love the start of a new year and the feeling of embarking on new plans and projects. While I enjoy setting and tracking goals (Virgo, hello), this year I’m trying to keep a piece of advice from Frank Ostaseski, the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project, front and center:

Have a plan. Hold it lightly.

One of my goals this year is to capture all of my editing knowledge in a big, beautiful Scrivener notebook for easy reference. Right now I’ve got stray notes and links scattered across Evernote, a Google spreadsheet, multiple Google docs, my Kindle highlights page, and my email inbox – not to mention all of the bits and pieces floating around in my brain.

As part of this project, I’m embarking on a year-long tour of writing craft books. Many of them are old favorites I will be rereading, and others are either new or new to me. And, in the spirit of Austin Kleon’s call to show your work, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts and favorite bits of wisdom right here in this newsletter. 

In previous years, I’ve fit writing into little gaps in my schedule, which has resulted in sporadic bursts of blog posts but not much else. This year I’ve scheduled big chunks of writing time into my week. I’m committed to writing this newsletter each week, but beyond that I’m giving myself freedom to explore some other projects, without goals or deadlines, and I’m excited to see what might emerge.

To get us started, I want to share another nugget from Austin Kleon – a riff on this passage from Thoreau’s journal:

“Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is a nest egg, by the side of which more will be laid. Thoughts accidentally thrown together become a frame in which more may be developed and exhibited… Having by chance recorded a few disconnected thoughts and brought them into juxtaposition, they suggest a whole new field in which it was possible to labor and to think. Thought begat thought.”

As Kleon points out, “a literal ‘nest egg’ is a real or fake egg that you put in a nest to encourage a bird or a hen to lay more eggs.” The nest egg doesn’t need to be a fancy egg from one of Martha Stewart’s rare Millie Fleur d’Uccles chickens. It can be a weeks-old supermarket egg from a huge industrial farm. It doesn’t even need to be a real egg. You can just go rummage around in your kid’s junk drawer and find a tawdry plastic Easter egg to throw into that writing coop. The only important thing is that you do it.

Back to Kleon:

“What Thoreau is saying is that by simply writing down a thought, you encourage more thoughts to come. When you have enough thoughts pushed together in the same space — a collage of thoughts, juxtaposed — they often lead to something totally new. This is the magic of writing.”

This is the magic of writing. Simply make a start – any start – and see what happens. It’s week one of 2019. What do you want to start on?

Here’s to holding it lightly, y’all,

PS: Have a favorite writing craft book to recommend or one that’s on the top of your to-be-read pile? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, or you can send me an email.

Next week’s book: Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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