Monday, June 26, 2017

Starting Is A Good Thing

Anne Lamott

The key word in the quote above should be stated in big letters. Like this:  start. Such a simple word with synonyms like beginning, onset, and commence. 

When you want to go on a walk, you start with one foot, put the other one in front and then do it again and again and again until you reach your destination. Simple, isn't it? Why can't we relate that to our writing? We make writing harder than it needs to be. 

No one ever said that first efforts would be winners. They are only the beginning, your first efforts. When writing anything, be it a short story, personal essay or a poem, it's necessary to get actual words written.  Don't expect them to be a finished product. They won't! But they will lead to a revised version that will be something ready for submission. 

How many times have you had a story idea mulling in your mind and it stays there? You don't sit down and begin to write actual words. You think about it for a very long time, work on other projects, get involved with family and friends. All the while, that idea is whirling like a spinning top until it begins to irritate you. What's the cure?

It's to begin writing. Write an outline, write an opening paragraph, write the middle or write the ending and work backwards. But, for Heaven's sake, write something. Don't let the idea percolate in your mind for so long that it finally fades away before you ever write anything. 

Try keeping a list of those ideas that come to you in the middle of the night or when you're at the grocery store or in the dentist's chair. Put the list where you can jot notes next to the ideas whenever they come to you. With that in mind, leave plenty of space between the ideas you put on your list. 
If you look at and add to the list often enough, you're bound to start writing. 

It doesn't matter if what you have for a first effort is pure drivel. The important thing is to get something written that you can read back and start revising. Not right away! Let this rough draft sit quietly for a few days. Then read it. Decide what is wrong and, also, what is right about that first effort. Keep what's good and you know what to do with what is not. Out! 

What keeps us from taking that first step and starting some new story, essay or poem? Sometimes, we fear that we can't do our idea justice. We know that it's going to be hard work--taking time and effort we may not want to give. We're not confident that we can take a good idea and turn it into a fine piece of writing. It won't be 'fine' in that early draft. It's much later that you can read your work and feel satisfied. 

This week, grab that idea that's been simmering in your brain for weeks and write a rough draft, then move on from there. It doesn't matter how awful it is. It's the bones of what will become a fully fleshed piece after some more work. 

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