Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writer's Digestion: After the Elephant

I'm sure you guys have heard it before.  When you're despairing over your writing and how unfathomably far you have to go, some angelic soul will invariably offer you a comforting pat on the back and that sage advice: "it's like eating an elephant: just take it one bite at a time."

So you tie your bib like the obi sash of a battle-hardened samurai, daub HP sauce under your eyes, and make valkyries of your knife and fork, until the bones of your enemy lie devastated and fleshless before you.

There are other elephants after that, of course.  Some smaller, others tougher, maybe one or two abandoned halfway through the brisket, when the sun and the flies beat you to the punch.  But you sharpen your eating-irons and step up your game, until - an indeterminate tonnage of meat later - you finally achieve that coveted Diners Club card, and entry into the blessed realm of Cornutopia.

Where you are woefully unprepared for what awaits you.

The Writer's Food Pyramid?

It's wonderful, of course.  No more sweating over a solitary carcass: here, you are seated amidst the beautiful people, with ten thousand delectable niceties passed from one illustrious peer to the next.  The variety is astonishing, delightful; the camaraderie intoxicating; the honor immense.

Until you notice that you're falling behind.  More and more goodies pile up on your plate, untasted, growing cold, as you frantically stuff yourself, marveling in despair at the swift, graceful ease with which your betters not only seem to dispatch every dish - website Wellington, chicken-fried conference, blog au jus - but keep carving themselves fresh slices of elephant all the while.  And then you begin to wonder whether the unsettled churning in your gut is indigestion, or the bile-soaked fear that you just might not belong here after all.

Or maybe you don't.  Maybe you were smarter than me and didn't spend five years living exclusively on malt liquor and elephant.  Maybe you started working this other stuff into your regimen a long time ago.

But if you didn't or haven't or just started wondering what might happen when you finally do start to get somewhere, I'll tell you what I've figured out so far.

1.  If you feel overwhelmed by it all, it's probably because you're still trying to do All of Something, and it's hard to switch to Some of Everything.

2.  Nobody else is really doing All of Everything, even if it looks like they are.

3.  Since you can't possibly do All of Everything, you might as well focus on the Somethings that you actually enjoy, and the ones that will get you closer to your goals.  (The more closely you can align those two, the better.)

4.  Ultimately, the worst thing you can do is Nothing.

5.  Life gets so much better when you give up on Perfect and set your sights on Better Than It Was Before.

And because I can't resist: apologies to everyone, for everything.  There's so much I'm dying to write and read and talk about, and all I want for Christmas is to sit down and interbrain with you.  Gimme a few more days to make it home again, and I will pre-empt the hell out of Santa.

If you could put my lunch in a blender and liquefy it and put it into a caulking gun and then inject it right into my femoral artery, even better.


  1. You have such an entertaining and unique blog voice. I love reading your posts. Kudos on extending the metaphor boldly beyond the point of reason for the sake of it all and making it work against all odds and logic. Happy holidays!

  2. Haha, thanks for enabling my growing addiction to overblown metaphors!

    In seriousness though, your comment really means the world to me. I remember you posted once a few months back about how overwhelming you found all of the social media and other not-so-extra curriculars, and you were SO much more right than I gave you credit for. This stuff is immense, and it chaps the ego something fierce!

    Anyway, thanks so much for the compliment and the vote of confidence - I am so lucky to know you!