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Writing in a One-Inch Frame

November 19, 2009

“Inch by inch, row by row, going to make this garden grow….”

A long time ago I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and there is one thing in it that keeps coming back to me. It is about this idea of writing to fill just a one-inch picture frame. Focusing small. You know, imagine yourself writing your scene or your piece in a way to fill just one inch by one inch.  A small space, to be sure but really, when you think about it, you could put the whole world inside of it, depending on the perspective you chose to take with that inch. It could be a close-up of something small, it could be a distant view of something huge. But either way, I find it helps to think about just filling that one-inch space. When I’m working on a section of the story and find myself stopped and not really knowing what comes next, I often think back to the one-inch frame and just try to imagine what goes into the frame. Maybe it’s a matter of the narrator turning her head and describing what she sees out the window, maybe it’s me trying to explore the music floating out of the speakers, maybe it’s a haunting memory like an old photograph, still in time. I’ve never forgotten that one-inch frame over the years I’ve been calling myself a writer (yes a writer, even though I’ve not not published anything other than a few magazine travel pieces here and there). I even have a small picture frame that sits empty on a desk to remind me to fill just that small space when I write: Don’t try to do too much – just fill up what you see in that little one-inch frame in your mind.

I’m well onto a new novel now and it’s been a smooth road so far. I’ve been writing regularly lately. Feels so good! I feel like Big Papi finally coming out of a hitting slump, and though I don’t know exactly how it’ll all work out, I do have confidence in the story and oddly, I have confidence in myself that somehow, it will work itself out if I just help it along as much as I can, as often as I can.  

And maybe a part of that is this approach I’ve reminded myself about, the one-inch frame approach. I’m writing a new novel and I’m doing it just one inch at a time. 

What do you see in the one-inch picture frame in your mind? I’d love to hear all about it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 4, 2009 3:21 pm

    In my one-inch frame right now? A question:

    Good, or evil?

    The answer, which I don’t have fully, with take this script down one of two incredibly different paths.

    Glad you’re back. Let’s make each other stay back.

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