One of the givens in life: if you find yourself standing in line at Starbucks, a long line snaking around the store, and you watch people inching forward, almost imperceptibly, you will, I guarantee, become annoyed if the person in front of you stands staring at his cell phone, checking messages, failing to shuffle towards the cashier, even if the forward movement is practically undetectable. In the grand scheme of things, you’re not saving any time, but getting someone else to conspire with your version of how things should work becomes somehow essential. The same holds true when you stand in an elevator and obsessively push the “close door” button. In reality, it’s doubtful whether you’re speeding up the elevator or getting to your destination any faster, yet it seems so important at the time that you do something, anything, to get where you’re going a minute quicker. Important to do something rather than nothing.

I must say, however, that when it comes to creativity, this “line shuffling” is critical to success. Many a day I don’t feel like sitting down to write, but when I do, even if all I’m doing is blogging, I feel more accomplished. I have done something to head in the direction I want to head. I have put pen to paper, and at least thought about the writing process. Writing, for me, is not a series of clearly directed forward steps. Rather, I shuffle along, in fits and spurts, and inevitably, those baby steps lead to revelations that have helped me as I work on my MFA in creative writing. Sometimes it takes twenty minutes of paper shuffling, looking over chapters I have written previously, before I am ready to sit down for “real writing.”

In this respect, I say, give yourself permission to shuffle impatiently in line, just try to do it without getting too irritated, trusting that it’s simply part of the creative process.

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