When the Big Picture Interferes with the Small One: Dating and Writing

Man seeing the big picture over the clouds

We know not to propose to someone we just met. It’s not the way relationships work.

First you have some conversation, then a date, and so on. Things escalate, grow more intimate and serious. Maybe it develops into a long term relationship, maybe it doesn’t. But skipping the intermediate process rarely works to your advantage.

It also doesn’t do you much good to be thinking about marriage the whole time. While you might have a committed relationship as a larger goal, it can’t be the goal for a particular date. The goal for a particular date should be to learn more about the other person, to have a good time, and to get to another date.

It is the same way with many of our writing projects. Maybe the goal is a published story or a novel or a chapbook. The immediate goal, however, is to get to know more about your characters, to enjoy (sometimes) the writing, to get to the next draft sentence, the next scene, the next draft.

Putting the pressure of a lifelong commitment on the first words you speak to someone is a quick way to never say hello to a stranger. And placing all your hopes for a lifelong career as a writer on the first sentence of an unwritten draft is one of the easiest ways to make sure you write nothing.

Like so many art forms, like so many crafts, writing is an iterative process. One that takes many strokes. If you’re counting on each one to be “the one” that brings it all together, you will continue to be disappointed. Or, even worse, you might be too afraid to write the next word.

Have you ever let your end goal keep you from taking the first step? It happens to me almost every time I have a new, blank page. I have to remind myself not to be distracted by the forest when I should be focused on the trees.


  1. says

    This is really great advice. Thanks. I’ve been doing my best to keep my eyes on the trees as I find a path through the forest of this first draft.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *