It starts somehow
Sometimes you sit down, butt in chair, just like you’re supposed it and… you’ve got nothing. Or you’ve got something, but it’s stuck in your head, and you can’t seem to get any of the words down the page. And all the while, the blank page just sits there still so empty, mocking you.
The following is an adapted excerpt from Building a Writing Life: start a writing habit, find time to write, discover your process and commit to your writing dreams available now in paperback and eBook.
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Even after years of writing and hundreds of projects started and finished, I still get that same gulping fear when I open a blank page for the first time and start something new, and I want to share a silly little trick I’ve developed to help with this. If I don’t have a beginning ready to go, I simply start typing the words, “It starts somehow.”
If I generally know what I want from the beginning, I add a few notes about it after that sentence. So the document would start with a little paragraph like this:
It starts somehow. Ideally, in some kind of brilliant way that shows the darkness she’ll embrace at the end but subtly, so it’s mostly lighthearted. Should also establish the circus. The central image could be the tent going up to mirror the end when it falls?
And then I jump down a line or two and start writing whatever part I feel like I’ve got a handle on and go from there.
While that first paragraph won’t appear in the final version of whatever I’m writing, it accomplishes two things that make it easier to continue. The first is that it fills up some of the page so there’s already something there and it’s less intimidating when I start to write in earnest. And secondly, though I’m talking to myself, I’m still writing and thinking about what I’m about to write which gets my head in the right space to do the job for real.
The most important thing to remember about beginnings of any kind is that they don’t matter as much as it feels like they do and they almost always change. You can always rewrite or revise whatever you write now later.
So don’t sweat coming up with the perfect beginning. Just start, somehow, and move forward from there.