“Every single time you sit down to write – a story, a poem, an essay, a novel – it will be a brand-new experience. No formula works. The mystery that solved your previous story doesn’t speak the same language as your current story. The key that unlocked the sonnet of yesterday won’t work today. Accept that. Don’t resist it. Writing never works the same way twice. You can view this as exciting or frustrating. Or, you can accept it for what it is. The writing process.
“Writing is not like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. All the ingredients are not waiting for you in the cupboard. You – armed with skill and the memory of successful past peanut butter and jelly-making performances, and knowing that, barring the absence of a key ingredient, like say, peanut butter or bread, you’ll be able to deliver a delicious sandwich, a sandwich just as delicious as the one you made yesterday, or last week, or when you were twelve – feel success as a peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich-maker extraordinaire. Writing is not in any way like this. The longer you believe that it is, the longer you will struggle needlessly. …
“Writing can never be like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because your ingredients aren’t sitting on a shelf waiting for you to take them down. If writing were truly like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, first you’d have to plant the seeds to grow the wheat to make the bread. Grow the peanuts to make the butter. Pick the fruit to make the jelly. Decide if you want white, wheat, sourdough, rye, or pumpernickel. Decide if you want chunky or smooth. Apple or grape or strawberry. Then realise you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes the harvest doesn’t come in and there’s not enough wheat for the bread. Sometimes worms get the apples and there’s no jelly. You can’t know these things though, until you’re all set and ready to make your sandwich – nay, until you’re in mid-sandwich-making-mode – and then you learn there are no strawberries. Or no peanuts. Or the bread went stale. Or there are only the ends and you hate the ends.
“Sometimes you don’t know these things until you get quite far into the process. And then you’re frustrated and decide peanut butter sandwiches are stupid anyway. There are far too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the world. Far too many people. Too many peanuts. Too many grapes to make the jelly with, and far, far too much bread. Storehouses of grain for loaves upon loaves of bread. Go be a farmer. A doctor. A preacher. A snake oil salesman. Anything, anything, but a writer. A maker of original peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Really, you say to yourself, what can you possibly have to offer that hasn’t already been done and done better than you could ever imagine?
“Stop. Breathe. Pick up your pen. Raise your fingers above your keyboard. Just start already. The world is hungry for what only you can create.”
– extracted from The Writing Warrior, Laraine Herring
Image: Jelly Sandwich