Put One Foot in Front of the Other

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Did any of you ever watch those stop-animation Christmas specials?
For as far back as I can remember (which is not too far back, and yet much farther than I’d like), every December of every year my grandmother and I would count down to Christmas on ABC family with Jack Frost, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy…and all the other classics. Jack Frost’s ill-fated love story still tugs at my heartstrings, and the Burgermeister Meisterburger’s terrible toy-deprived reign still scares little toy-hungry me. But the moment – the resilient one that sticks to me like a leech – is a little song Kris Kringle – the future Santa Claus – sings to the Winter Warlock in Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The Winter Warlock so desperately wants to be good again, and doesn’t believe he ever can, so good ol’ Kris says it’s as easy as

one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor.
You put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door.

You never will get where you’re going
If ya never get up on your feet.
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowin’
A fast walking man is hard to beat.

(and Kris Kringle was singing it before Dori, thank you very much.)

So the Winter Warlock takes his first steps out from his palace, out of the darkness he was so swept up in, and he becomes good and a great ally, and it’s all very sweet, but this is a blog about writing, and unless the Warlock gave up the power of his wand for the might of his pen, what’s the point?

I’m so happy you asked!
Here’s the point: often, especially in the beginning, writing is a fight. Imagine you’re the Winter Warlock, but you’re not fighting to be “good” in the general sense, you’re not even fighting (in the beginning) to be a good writer, you’re just hell-bent on trying to write. Anything. And the billowing storm inside you isn’t just full of “evil” – it’s full of little barbs of doubt, little jabs of fear, little clubs of shame asking who the hell do you think you are to believe, even for a second, that you could be more.
What you want, when you want to be a writer, is to be God. Think about it: You want to be the creator of your own little world, even if it takes 7^339482394 days. You have the gall to think that the world you created is worth saving and cultivating and what’s more? You dare to think that, just maybe, another person would like to read it, have their mind play in the grounds you wrote into being. You’re not established, you’re not published, you’re not important, nobody cares, your only fan is your boyfriend/roommate/mother so what gives you the right…?

BAM. You’re in a pit of despair, killing all your windows without saving any, shoving away your laptop, red from shame, utterly and completely done.

And that’s where that song comes in. Because when you’re faced with all these beautifully destructive thoughts that only you could have created because only you know exactly what group of words can form a little sword to puncture your tiny bubble of hope…put one word in front of the other.

A word of advice one of my creative-writing professors gave us all: when your muse isn’t being inspiring, when you have no idea what to write about, write one word. Again and again and againagainagainagainagainagain, and eventually another word will follow. It’ll land there like it was always meant to be there, just settling down a little later than you wanted it to. And then it’s partner will come, sidling along. And then another. And another. And another. Until you have a page, a few more, and then a story or a chapter or a book. But even if it doesn’t get that far that first night, you’ll have something much more important: a start. And that’s all you need to form a bubble not a single arrow can pierce.

It’s worked for me. But if you can’t trust his word, or my word, here’s someone you can trust:

If you want to change your direction,
If your time of life is at hand,
Well, don’t be the rule, be the exception
A good way to start is to stand.

Because Santa Claus will never lead you astray.

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One thought on “Put One Foot in Front of the Other

  1. Pingback: Just Keep Swimming | Make Good Art

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