“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
Whatever you’re working on, you may have hit a rough patch or you may be about to pass into one. When you land in one of these spots, by its very nature, you feel bogged down and sluggish: Moving forward seems overwhelming. When you find yourself in one of these ruts, “chunking” can really help.
Basically, this involves breaking down whatever you’re working on into small, manageable pieces and then tackling each of them in separately, in isolation. Instead of feeling distracted and fragmented, this approach helps you focus by giving you a limited amount of text to work with.
Here’s an example: Just recently, I was making extensive changes in a key chapter in my YA novel. Instead of adding them in piecemeal, I decided to rewrite it from start to finish, so that I could get a feeling for the new narrative flow of this portion of my story.
Since it was a long chapter with a lot of action and dialogue, to make the revision more efficient — and more enjoyable — I took a pack of 5 x 8 index cards and rewrote the entire chapter on them. Each card was just large enough to hold a few sentences: about a paragraph of text. Sometimes I rewrote the same passage on several cards in succession, until it had more sparkle and snap. Occasionally, I decided to try a different text sequence by re-ordering the cards. This was fun and in a couple of instances, the new order definitely worked better.
Bit by bit, card by card, the chapter started coming together. I numbered each one and stacked them in a satisfying little pile. As it got bigger and fatter, I felt more focused and more determined to push through to the end.
I remember reading that Vladimir Nabokov wrote on small index cards, building his stories card by card. There’s something very encouraging and easeful about this approach: Instead of facing a whole page, you are just filling a rectangle with text. Why not try it and see if it works for you? Write on!