On Baby Steps



I have set aside some time this month to revisit my manuscript, which needs a third draft. I know of writers whose process is so iterative that they might write forty drafts of the very same manuscript, over a period of five or more years, and honestly, I bow down to them. To their stamina, their stick-to-itiveness, their willingness to engage and re-engage with the same material.  

I watch Cosmo, our rescue puppy, circle a spot where he’s going to sleep, around and around and around, before plunking down. It reminds me of me right now, circling my computer, circling my material in my head, around and around and around. I’ve been doing this for two days and still haven’t plunked down!  Still haven’t found my way back in! This could very well be because I am circling instead of sitting.  

Many writers use the A.I.C. method: Ass In Chair. Mine hasn’t been. When I finally do sit, I spring back up, as if my chair has an Eject! button. I know resistance is part of the process, at least part of mine. This is what I do. I circle. I sit, then spring right up. I pace. I clean the house, pay the bills, find broken things that need to be taken to repair shops, errands I have been putting off for months if not years. I have done this so many times in my life that I’ve come to trust that all the while, in the back of my mind, I am probably already writing. And when I finally do get to A.I.C in earnest, I will be ready.

Every day after school, our nine-year-old neighbor comes over to take Cosmo out of his crate and bring him outside—because we are usually out of the house at work all afternoon.  But yesterday I was home, trying to write, aka circling, and forgot Natalia was coming.  I was not quite A.I.C., but was getting closer. I was A.I.B.—in other words, in bed with my computer and my puppy, re-reading my manuscript in search of an entry point. I heard Natalia’s footsteps in her snowboots trudging up the stairs to find Cosmo, who wasn’t in his crate as usual.

“What are you doing?’ she asked, when she came upon me A.I.B..

“Trying to write a book,” I said. “But I’m having a hard time.”

“What’s it about?”

“Well,” I said.  “It’s about two sad things that happened in our family, two accidents, that ended up turning into miracles.”

By this point, Cosmo had made his way into Natalia’s arms, tail wagging, licking her face, eager to go outside. Having doubled his size and weight since we got him over Thanksgiving, Cosmo is almost too big for Natalia to carry. She lugged his wriggling body downstairs and outside, and I went back to my manuscript (aka checking email, shopping online). I figured I’d bored Natalia with my description of my book, but when she came back in with Cosmo about ten minutes later, she brought it up.

“Um, Hilary? I think what you should do is tell people that miracles are very important.”  

So I’ll start here: Miracles are very important!

Overcoming resistance, right now, would be my minor miracle. Another is that I know exactly how: baby steps. Baby steps almost always lead to miracles. I worked with a client who felt too sedentary to overcome his exercise aversion, but committed to setting a timer for three minutes of jumping jacks a day, which over time became five, then ten minutes, until he found himself with enough energy in his system to start going regularly to the gym. For another client, spending fifteen intentional minutes a day out of her comfort zone lead her to complete two daunting goals, one personal, one professional. The trick was, and is, taking the baby step no matter what.  

Mine is revisiting my manuscript everyday, whether I feel like it or not. (I don’t.) This may feel like circling. It may feel fruitless. I may make messes in the work that I end up throwing out. The other trick is, remembering it’s all progress. Baby steps aren’t always linear. When babies learn to walk, they fall down. Maybe they crawl a little before standing up again. Then they take another step.  Or two, or three.

16 thoughts on “On Baby Steps”

    1. Yes… “This” however was not what I was avoiding! I often notice how when I have one daunting project, I easily click off the other projects that by comparison are more click-off-able. In a certain way having a daunting project provides productivity in so many other areas…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. As an example of my ‘circling’ I am reading your blog (which I LOVE) and leaving a comment rather than doing my planned meditation (which put kindly I love a lot less!)

    OK-AIC I will go meditate!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AIC is the answer to so many tasks! Sometimes it takes several circles to get me there. And all those throw-away? Compost I say….compost.
    Just keep writing Hils….just keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that AIC is the answer to resistance. I wrote this post about writing but it applies (at least for me) to anything I avoid. It could be AOT (Ass on Treadmill), or whatever it is…


  3. AIB – haha! I totally get that. And I can completely relate to this entire post. Getting started is RIDICULOUSLY hard for me every.single.time.every.single.day. But we push on, boats against the current…

    Great post (and love that Natalia comment!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Comments are like presents for me: I love them. And yes: every single day! Is there something that is out of our comfort zone that would get us where we want to go that we can do every single day?


  4. Well said. I use the robo-therapist called “Woebot” on Facebook Messenger created by a Stanford researcher. Recently, Woebot told me that procrastination nearly always comes from some type of fear. At first, I rejected that; it couldn’t be true; I’m just lazy. Later, it sank in that in fact fear does underlie a lot of my procrastination behavior. Do you agree?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree. I notice adrenaline in my system when I am being “lazy” in the way we are discussing here, meaning for me the presence of fear (or excitement: but excitement compels me to do something, whereas fear can often prompt me to avoid/resist/find a way out). When I feel overwhelmed by a project, as I do by this one, I very often notice fear in the overwhelm: fear I don’t know how, or don’t have what it takes… I love that a robot figured that out!


  5. this entry was so right on for me today and well everyday. after 25 years of doing the same thing for my career, i have an opportunity to do something slightly different in santa fe and in so many ways it could be such a gift yet i find myself circling back to what is familiar and making excuses to not venture out.


  6. i am loving your blog entries. 1) because it means to much to me to hear your process once a week and not save it for the annual get together 2) because everything you say resonates with me. i feel a buzz after i read it and i feel empowered and grateful to know you 3) from my logistics bean counter mind i am always impressed by the magic of sitting in a chair and creating something. most of my friends in santa fe ar artists and i am trasnfixed that they go to a studio and churn out a painting from the dark abyss and a week later it is sold all the while i am moving numbers around spreadsheets. 4) i feel i have put myself in a box of what i can and can’t do. >


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