The Next Right Thing



I’m currently in the middle of a move across the world, a huge life upheaval, an insane revision, and the first draft of a massive non-fiction project that I’m still researching–not to mention coaching and meditation projects galore. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I’ve got a lot on, and it’d be pretty easy to feel overwhelmed.


But I have a little trick.


If you’re feeling like you’re drowning, this bit of advice from a very wise man I’ve had the privilege to work with might help you, too.


I was recently on a meditation retreat with David Chernikoff (you should check out his fantastic dharma talks here), and he said that when the shit really starts to hit the fan and you don’t know where to start and you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown, stop everything and ask yourself:



What’s the next right thing?



That’s all. You don’t need to be ten or even two steps ahead. You just need to be firmly in the present and ask yourself what the very next right thing is. Maybe it’s to get a glass of water. Okay, so get a glass of water. Now drink the water. Done? Okay. What’s the next right thing? And so on.


It reminds me a lot of what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Birdwhere she explains how she came up with the title for this seminal book on writing. She’d been overwhelmed by a school project about birds and her father had said to just take it bird by bird. And she said the same is for writing. Rather than look at the whole book and see the million problems you have with it, just take it bird by bird. First, fix this scene. Then the next one. Then the next one. Or you can go sentence by sentence. This is useful advice for any stage in drafting, whether it’s your messy, shitty first draft or your fifth revision of a book you’ve been working on for years (ahem. note to self).


This question What’s the next right thing? is useful in any life situation, and especially when you’re feeling really uncertain about what your next move should be with your writing career. It can be easy to see all the million things you could or should do. Or to constantly be veering out of your own lane to see what everyone else is doing. But if you stay focused, stay present, and just do the next right thing, then the next, slowly the rubble of your overwhelm will clear away and a path will form.


Here’s to your next write thing. 🙂


Breathe. Write. Repeat. 


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Illustration by Angela Smyth

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