Eating an Elephant

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How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Does the idea of beginning a writing project overwhelm you? Are you still procrastinating?

Can you write a word? A sentence? A paragraph?  If you can’t see yourself writing the entire story, just get a sentence or two down on the page. Build from that. Maybe you can’t quite imagine how the story will hang together, but you could write that one little scene. What’s the dialogue? How did your mother’s face look when you gave her the bad news that September morning? What was the light in the room during the conversation? What noises were in the background? What smells?

As writers, sometimes we don’t know where to begin or how to get started. We flounder and fail. Try again and again and somehow, the words finally line up. The sentences appear and morph into paragraphs and then, pages.

Take a bite of that elephant. Chew it up. Then spill it all out onto the blank page.


  1. Dorothy LaFond

    Sounds good to me except I don’t know where to start cutting. I kept daily notes for a summer on an East Coast schooner and mailed the results to my sister every time we made port. When I got home that fall I had a very large envelope full of yellow legal pads with all my daily life spelled out. I got on the computer and expanded these memories into reams of memories. Fascinating for me to read and they brought back lots of memories but I don’t know how to compress them into a compact size that could be published?

    Posted on July 26, 2011
  2. affoster22

    Dorothy, I would try to find a story (beginning, middle and end) and write that. If you stay focused and only allow the things that are pertinent to the telling of that one particular story, you will quickly whittle it down to a workable amount. Just try to write that one scene, that one thing that happened and let the rest slide away for now. Focus. That’s the key when trying to compress.
    Good luck!

    Posted on July 27, 2011
  3. Niomi Phillips

    I like the analogy and I am remembering that in my other working life, I was advised to approach hiring a new employee that way, i.e., think of the parts of an elephant, and what the parts contribute to the whole 🙂

    Posted on July 30, 2011

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