Write On Wednesday: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

wow_button1-9-1I’m on the cusp of a new writing project, one I’ve been pondering for a long time, and so I’ve been thinking about how different and difficult it is for a writer to start at the very beginning. Unlike other artists, the writer  begins with nothing other than an idea, a thought, a fleeting glimpse of character or concept. A musician has notes on the page, the potter molds a lump of clay, the photographer a subject in her lens.

Yet the writer – all we have are words in our heads. Nothing to hold onto, nothing to look at or listen to and think, oh a bit more contour is required, a softer dynamic is needed.

Sitting before my screen this morning, in the two hour window of writing time I have allotted for myself today, I think about looking for a dictionary and leafing through it, just to gaze for a moment at the tools of my trade laid out before me in black and white, maybe leaf through it and find a few that catch my eye, a few that I could pluck off that page and place somewhere onto my own.

I’ve decided the real building blocks of a writer’s trade aren’t words, but thoughts. The words are vital, of course, but they are the material, the conduit to convey those thoughts to the world. I’m pretty good with words. I’m not so good at thinking, or at least the kind of quiet and thoughtful thinking that leads to good writing. I have to work at mindfulness, at focusing on the subject at hand. Like most people, my head is filled with a million thoughts, trampling monkey like through my brain. Should I check my e-mail one last time? Who has posted on Facebook? What an interesting article someone linked on Twitter. Oh, the dogs need to go out and I really should brush them when they come in. Oops, forgot to make the grocery list. And where is that recipe for lentil soup I wanted to copy?

Plunked down in the middle of real, everyday life, it’s difficult to still the mind long enough to contemplate anything, much less an all-important beginning.

Still, I enjoy the beginnings of things, and it is, as the song says, a very good place to start. There were times when I had to start at the middle of things – musical things, work things – and it’s never quite as satisfying as beginning right at the inception, being there from the get-go and seeing it through to the conclusion.

A New Year is a good place for a new beginning. I have determined to make this year a writing year, to get really serious about this book I want to write. I’m setting definitive goals – a first draft (shitty though it might be) of one chapter per month. I’ve enrolled in a writing class* to help me get started and keep me on track.

And this morning I began, pulling over 2000 words out of nothing but my head, heart, and experience.

The very beginning.

I’ve started.

How about you? Are you at the very beginning of something?

*If you’re interested in beginning a new writing project, there are still a couple of spots in the writing class I’m taking. A referral from me gets you a 20% discount too :)

17 thoughts on “Write On Wednesday: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

    • I know, those Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are always “ear worm” material :)
      Thanks for the encouragement! I hope you have a stellar writing year!

  1. 2000 words is a prolific beginning! Plus a blog post, email and dogs! Yes, starting IS the hardest. It is certainly the hardest for me with an art project and with writing, too. But once one gets going it is almost as though it just comes, that you can’t stop! I hope it is that way with you! Onward!

  2. Way to go Becca! Let’s keep each other on track.
    I’m determined to finish my memoir in 2013…despite the allure of the Internet and all the fabulous distractions it offers :) Keep going!

  3. Like you, I’m feeling a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Where it will lead, who knows? But you’ve gotten a terrific start, and as you say, that’s often the hardest.

    I agree with you completely that thinking is as critical as writing. That’s one reason my for-pay work is so good for me – plenty of thinking time out there on the docks. Now, I just need to put it to use!

    And if you think I’m impressed by 2000 words – yes, ma’am, I certainly am!

    • Your blog posts are always so extremely thoughtful, it’s easy to tell you’ve spent a lot of time pondering as well as researching and writing.

      I get some of my best thinking done when I’m doing physical tasks that don’t require a lot of thought. Things like painting, cleaning, ironing, walking.

  4. “Each of us has an average of 67,000 thoughts a day, and most of these we have thought a thousand times before,” writes Christina Feldman (Silence, How to Find Silence in a Busy World).

    Keep writing…

  5. Do you use the free writing technique to help you get going Becca? In the writing course I did that was strong,y encouraged as well as keeping a journal of images or thing you notice during the day. It could be light on the river you pass on the way to work, a face you see in the supermarket queue or an article in a newspaper. Etc

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