On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Stones in the Pot

You may have heard this story before...

A professor carried in a large glass pot and put it on the table. He then filled it with big rocks from a bucket under the table.

"Who thinks it's full?" he asked. Most of the class raised hands.

The professor then dribbled a significant number of pebbles between the rocks. "Now is it full?" he asked. The class nodded.

The professor sifted sand over the pot, putting in quite a bit.

"It's got to be full now, right?" Everyone agreed.

The professor then took a pitcher from behind the podium and poured water into the pot, emptying the pitcher. The water came to the top.

"Full?" the professor asked. After the class laughed and agreed that the pot was absolutely, positively full, the professor paused.

"The point of this demonstration," he said, "is not that you can always fit one more thing is. Rather, it's the opposite." Then he pulled out a big rock from his pocket.

"Will this fit?" he asked.

The class shook their heads: No.

"Would it have fit if I'd put it in before I filled the pot with other things?"

One kid spoke up. "Yes. Probably."

The professor nodded. "There's your lesson. First, do the important things."


It may be a silly story, but it represents a great truth. If you are a writer, you must work to achieve this title. The words will not appear on the page simply because you imagine things. The words that DO appear will only incompletely reflect what you see. The only way to move to a closer approximation of capturing your vision is to write junk. Write. And write. And write.

You must put writing in your life before you fill your life with the pebbles and sand and water. Make writing a priority. Do it every day if you can; at least make writing a regular activity with at least five or so hours a week. Recognize that you are doing something difficult by writing, and be patient and kind to yourself, but at the same time keep at it.

One of my favorite expressions is this: If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

Capture your dreams. Writers write. If you are a writer, then write.

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