I’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.
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