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And I’m always ready to leave the list, and my plan behind, if I find a sweet spot: the list is a tool, not a contract.I have dozens of essay ideas in various states of list form, in a Moleskine, slowly growing until they’re ready. My wife is an artist, and for years she’s worked on two paintings at the same time, switching between them. When she’s hit a wall on one project, the second project is a godsend: it’s an escape that’s still productive.I can rarely use those first rant-laden riffs, but it puts me in the ring.Sometimes its love you need, so go to your masters: Emerson, Fitzgerald, Orwell, King, get your nose into whoever’s writing get you jazzed. 28 2006 (#54) Writing is easy, it’s quality that’s hard.Any idiot who knows 5 words can write a sentence (e.g. It might be without grammar, broken, or inaccurate but it is still writing.Don’t depend on these (as the more you use, the less they work, except for the last one), but occasionally they’re the only way. The next day, terrified as I was to return, I created a second document, called “My Novel – notes”. It was a hard core rule: If I had any idea at any time, I wrote it down immediately. I’d think of snippets of dialog, lines of narrative, names for characters, or bits of plot, and stick them in, rarely looking at the previous bits.And in there I wrote down every idea that came to me about what might be in the novel. Eventually I had enough material to psyche myself up for the dive back into “My novel” as it wasn’t a blank page anymore. Groan at the pretentious ones (there will be many).

That vision makes the clumsy junkyard that all beginnings must be, impossible to accept.

If you can do that, new work will get off the ground almost on its own.

Notes [1] I sometimes write “I have nothing to say” and repeat it on the page.

I use this hack as follows: when stuck on project A, including not being able to start, I’ll joyfully switch to project B, thinking I’m pulling one over (on myself of course, but even the idiocy of self-delusion is tolerable to the acid misery of returning to A).

But 20 minutes later when I hit a wall on Project B, a wall that, by comparison, seems like the Maginot line, I’m more than happy to return to A, even if it’s a blank page.

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