“Less thunder in the mouth, more lightning in the hand.”
When a pithy saying takes you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you — figuratively speaking, of course — it’s time to sit up and pay attention. That’s exactly how I felt about these Apache words of wisdom. They instantly led me to ponder the ways in which too much “thunder in the mouth” and too little “lightning” in the hand can undermine writing progress. Here’s what I came up with:
“Thunder in the mouth” can short-circuit our writing:
When we promise ourselves that we’ll achieve a goal or stick to a writing schedule and then slack off or let circumstances get in the way of honoring our commitment.
When we talk too much to friends or family about what we’re going to do instead of just doing it. Dissipating our drive and creativity by throwing words out into the ether instead of on the page is one of the fastest ways to sabotage ourselves (see Twice-told Tales).
When we spend more time venting about what we don’t have — enough time, enough contacts, enough talent — than we do developing the strengths we do have — and bolstering them with a can-do attitude, curiosity, and grit.
“Lightning in the hand” carries us forward:
When we quietly and confidently gather our energy and ideas, letting them percolate and build steam — and then focus them where they belong: on the page. As Faulkner once said, “Don’t ‘be a writer’ — be writing.”
When we honor our decision to write by adopting a “butt in the chair” mentality and pushing through rough patches and dry spells until the muse sees we’ve shown up and favors us. This is when we enter the “zone” and lightning strikes.
When we bring playfulness and gratitude to the page — boldly and cheerfully channel whatever we’ve got out of our head and through our hand and then play around with it like a kid with a lump of Play Doh until we love what we’ve come up with.
Let’s choose “lightning” over “thunder” today — and write on!