BeginningsMay 5, 2009
I never know where to begin with the first post of a blog. Which is why I usually end up talking about why I chose the particular name for the blog, and what I plan to do with it. But the process of writing the starting bit made me think about how difficult I generally find it to begin writing something I’ve germinated an idea for, so I’m going to talk about that, and cover the other items in subsequent posts.
The blank page is my worst enemy as a writer. Before you write any words on it, the story is still wide open. The potential is infinite. The very second you write words, you begin defining the story, but definition also involves the loss of that potential. The focus narrows, possibilities are excluded.
And, perhaps more to the point, the beginning of something needs to be the hook. Your first line, first paragraph, first chapter. If they don’t pull people to the next one, then you’re going to lose your reader. While to an extent that’s true for every line, paragraph, and chapter, it’s far more salient for the firsts. So beginnings are the highest pressure part of any piece of writing. It makes me savagely perfectionist about writing the beginnings.
One thing that I have found that does help is to go write something short. Leave the blank page be for a while, and write a very short story. Take something from your file drawer of ideas that didn’t have enough substance for a big story, and write it. Begin and end it in ten minutes. Even if it’s not particularly good, it gives me a great rush to begin and end something. It generates momentum for the start of the main project. (Ending things is my other problem. The middle usually goes fine. Endings will likely get a whole other blog post. Y’know, after I finish something significant.)
My second method for dealing with a blank page is to open a new word file and start transcribing my stream of consciousness. Without commentary, without reflection – I just write every word that comes into my head as it does. It’s often nonsense, or very weird, or pure frustration, but it tends to free up the brain from extraneous distractions. (And, bizzarely enough, I’ve found my internal monologue loses steam after a few minutes, and you’re left blank… which is a good space for new ideas to jump into, which is when you go back to the main project.) It’s also served as a strange diary which allows me to go back over it and indulge in some frenzied self analysis, or comb it from random thoughts that can germinate into ideas. If I could, I’d carry a dictaphone and constantly talk into it as I went about my daily business away from the computer. But then I’d look really weird.
So to end this beginning, here’s a short fiction I wrote to break the block on the beginning of the ever elusive Chapter 4 of my current major work in progress.
Push push out push out with foot kickpush kickpush out there from in here in here I I I here in here you out there. Kickpush hello.
Listen. Bah-dum Bah-dum Bah-dum Bah-dum outside Bah-dum outside around Bah-dum outside around rush bah-dum outside around rush inside bah-dum outside around rush inside bah-dum inside outside around bah dum outside inside around rush inside. Rhythym inside around outisde the same.
Kickpush hello again again again. I in here you around outside I inside pushing outside bah-dum rush kickpush out out push in. Push in push in push in I inside pushing outside pushed outside and bright and bright and cry and cry and cry and bah dum rush inside not around and cry and cry and crypush hello outside.
I outside now and now outside kickpush hello and I kickcrypush hello and others crykickpush hello and outside happens so much so fast and crykickpush because cry and smile and gurgle and I cry and smile and gurgle and she around who now is Mother will come and be around again and all is good. Cry and smile and gurgle become talk and now Mother know what it is I need for all to be good and she comes and brings and gives. Outside happens fast but then I know and I know and I know and still I don’t know all and then I know and I know.
Mother goes away and is outside no more then peek a boo and Mother is not gone away any more and I do not know where she goes when she is not outside and before peek a boo where she is gone if it isn’t nowhere. Then I know she is not gone nowhere but behind and peek a boo is funny because I know not because I am happy Mother is not gone. And I know and I know and I cry and gurgle and talk more and more and more.
And then Mother is gone but I know that she is not nowhere so it is funny because I know. And I wait and cry and gurgle and talk and know but Mother does not peek a boo. Father comes and says that Mother is not coming back again but I know she is not nowhere because nothing is nowhere it is funny because I know. But she does not come back and I cry and cry and cry but Mother and Father is around but he is not Mother and all is not good and she is nowhere.
She is nowhere. And I cry and I cry and I know. She is nowhere.