Hello and good morning! Can you believe October is almost over already? Many are anticipating Halloween, with its costume parties, trick or treating, and spooky games, but over here in the Writing Corner we’re making the final preparations to begin the first draft of a new project. Exciting, write right?
I think so, too. I have received much enthusiasm concerning ‘what’s next’, and I will very soon be divulging more details concerning it (so don’t stray far!). But today I want to share a bit about a question that was asked me that I believe to be in the spirit of Getting Ready.
I was asked how I centered myself and cleared my mind prior to writing.
An excellent inquiry.
The inquirer stated that they were experiencing trouble doing so themselves, having a hard time clearing their mind to get ideas out and feeling that they waste 10 to 15 minutes just trying to figure out how to begin.
Well, my dear inquirer: join the club.
After giving the matter some thought, I came to realize that my methods differ depending on what it is I’m trying to begin, whether a simple day’s writing or starting a new book. Every time I finished one volume of the TJT series and had to begin working on the next one, I repeatedly and without fail found myself intimidated by the idea of Starting. After all, the opening is an extremely important part of the story. It has to be done well, or who would keep reading? I’ve found myself stalling and (gasp!) procrastinating, struggling to come up with a decent way to start. However, the only thing I can really say that solved that was the inescapable need to just do it. The more I write, the more ideas come and the better they become.
For example: pushing an heavy wagon is difficult, but the initial shove that gets the wheels turning is the most strenuous. Once the wagon is moving it rolls easier and goes faster.
As for the simple, everyday writing, the method is pretty much the same. I would suggest beginning by
- creating an environment that eliminates distractions. Put blinders on, per se. Turn off the phone and remove it far from your person. Close the door. If you’re like me and have a tendency to stare out the window, put your back to it, or draw the curtains if you must (although I, myself, loathe shades). I like having music playing quietly ─ orchestral, no lyrics ─ but others may not find that helpful.
- focus on what you’re working on and recapture the thought train you were on when you left off. Sometimes I read a bit of what I’ve written the day before in order to refresh my mind, but it’s also helpful if you stop at a place where you know where you want to keep going with the narrative. That way you have a starting point for the next time.
Still, I’ve not yet found the infallible cure to the struggle. Not in writing and not in life outside of writing. Starting is hard and slow for me. I have to relocate my rhythm, which flees to the far reaches of the universe every time I let go for the day. My thoughts and words usually ‘buffer’ for a while before I can really get into it ─ but once that is achieved I try to keep it as long as possible.
I won’t lie and say it isn’t frustrating sometimes, but I often say that ‘noting worthwhile is ever easy’. I’m finding this to be true in writing more and more all the time, but the challenge has not yet discouraged me from pursuing it. Starting is hard, but the salvation in writing is that you can go back and make better whatever you began with. Trash can be turned into treasure with a second, third, and eighteenth pass. So just start.
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