We met through QueryTracker, talking informally through the forum. Turned out, she worked closely with the site's captain and moderated the QT blog. One day, she invited me to write with them.
It was a huge opportunity. I thought, what a great gig. This could really pan out for me. What I didn't know was I'd be getting a dear friend and mentor in the bargain.
Carolyn was bright—no, brilliant—and funny and innovative and she had a charm about her that was far too humble to accurately portray her innumerable talents. One of those talents was giving advice. And over the years I'd turned to her quite often for guidance.
Once, I was lamenting being stuck for a topic for my upcoming spot on the blog. After a lot of sympathizing/grumbling on both our ends (because writer's block doesn't discriminate), she shared a few of her tactics for treating Topic Absentia. Then she added:
"I've also been known to flip through writers' books and just put my finger on a page and write about whatever I end up with."
As offhand a comment as that seemed at the time, it stayed with me. Frankly, it was good advice. For one thing, this nifty little trick actually worked. I've got a pretty sizeable writer's library, so every time I've resorted to this, it worked like a charm. It was an innovative way to harness the elusive muse and her inspiration.
Apart from the simplicity of the advice, there was a deeper takeaway message.
And, like just about everything else Carolyn said, it was light-hearted and poignant and brilliant, all at the same time.
Sometimes, you just gotta throw darts.
Picking a random topic out of a writer's book is like throwing a dart. Close your eyes and pick one.
It's a stress-free way to make a decision and it pretty much takes you off the hook for it. Fate determined the choice. Now, all you had to do is make something of it.
These days, I find myself with more options than opportunities to see every single one of them through. Sometimes, it's just too hard to choose…and we waste valuable time waffling. If you've ever faced a deadline, you know how desperate lost time can feel. And what if we pick the wrong option? In a profession where doubt can do serious damage, anything that makes a decision a lot less guilt-ridden is a commodity.
In moments like these, you need to close your eyes, center your spirit, and lift a dart.
That sounds scary, I know. (And it would qualify for Jane's advice to do one scary thing every day.)
But it doesn't have to terrify you. You already know that, no matter where the dart lands, it's going to be a choice that you had already considered. It was on the table. It was something you wanted to do. And, if any one of those choices is a scary thing in and of itself, tell yourself this: you control that fear, because you had already been willing to face it.
Knowing that you have a table full of things you'd like to do doesn't mean it's easy to choose one from amongst them. Maybe you want to do all of them with equal intensity. Maybe they've divided themselves into categories like Easy, Necessary, Impressive (or Fun, Feels Like Work, Would Look Awesome in A Bio). But if you didn't think they should be done, they wouldn't be on the table in the first place. There are no bad choices.
So, feel the dart in your fingers. Weigh it. Envision its flight path. Imagine the satisfying thunk it will make when it hits home. Let fate make a decision, for once, and revel in that tiny fleeting moment of blameless freedom.
Then open your eyes, see what life has next in store for you, and smile because your aim is true.
You made sure of that before you even picked up that dart.