I’ve felt a bit at a loss for words lately.
It might be related to the arrival of autumn, which always comes at me like a down pillow with a ripped seam, feathers of melancholy wafting, and no matter how I try to avoid them, they stick to me. Just a little.
So now and then I have to sit down, all covered in fluff, and pick them off, one by one, reminding myself “that was then, this is now,” and “winter will come soon.” I embrace the melancholy … or maybe it’s sentimentality… and realize it isn’t the worst thing, after a busy summer, to take time to feel and reflect.
Maybe I should admit that this year’s autumn unease might have something to do with my realization that I’ve been kidding myself, telling myself that I’m working on my next book. But that hasn’t been true, not really. Unless “working on my next book” means learning how to paint with acrylics, futzing with my website and training for a 10K. What that all adds up to is “avoiding working on my next book” a.k.a. “feeling too scared to embark on a big project that is really important to me.”
Here it comes …
So at the beginning of this week, I told myself, “A-I-S,” which might be the best piece of writing advice I can offer.
If you are a fan of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, you might recognize this acronym. It shows up in an episode where Raymond complains about how hard it is to get his family in the car for an outing. Here’s a snippet of the script:
Raymond: Let me tell you. My father had a system: AIS. Like whenever we’d go somewhere, he’d set a time and he’d be like: ‘We’re leaving. 9:00, AIS!’.
Raymond: A** In Seat. Whoever’s a** was not in their seat at the designated time, that a** was left behind.
(From Everybody Loves Raymond, “Lateness,” 2004, IMDb)
I am the weak link when it comes to leaving the house on time, so this concept causes me some trepidation. But I do find it relevant to the writing life, because it’s how things Get Done. Success has been described as 80 percent showing up. But to achieve success in writing, there’s a 100 percent chance that you need AIS. Or FIFOSUD — Feet In Front Of Stand Up Desk. (Things have gotten so darn complicated.)
So, here I am, AIS in Minnesota and, with the autumn melancholies bearing down, I’m not exactly brimming with enthusiasm but finding that making forward progress is an elixir.
Perhaps it’s the psychological equivalent of a lint roller, helping me gather up all of those unruly feathers.
I’d love to hear your favorite piece of writing advice — help everyone out by sharing it in the comments.
(Originally published in “The Same Loon” e-newsletter, Sept. 23, 2021.)