(Note: I feel a bit silly placing a Copyright notice on this article because, as a professional writer I know that Copyright is in place from the minute I create a work and does not necessarily require the symbol. Copyright ownership rests with the creator of content. That’s part of the TofS of this site. Professionals respect Copyright, but thieves do not. Since Zurza stole one of my posts on this blog, I want to make it a little tedious for him/her or anyone inclined to steal others’ work to have to check every line to see if something needs to be removed before they scrape it and post it their sites. If nothing else, they might learn something about how to write so they can do it themselves without stealing words from others.)
HOW TO BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING
by Joan Reeves©2008
You may think this title is nonsensical, but I see a lot of writers who don’t know how to start writing. They want to write. They really do, but somehow they just can’t seem to get started.
Those of you writing novels may be like the frustrated writer played by Billy Crystal in Throw Momma From The Train. He’s sitting in front of a typewriter and has typed: The night was…. After those three words, he’s stalled and stares blankly at the piece of paper.
He types hot. No, that’s not it. He types humid. No. That’s not right. He ends up with a wastebasket full of paper wads and a massive case of writer’s block. Later, when the mother in the movie rasps, The night was sultry, is it any wonder he agrees to kill her?
Perhaps you’re writing a novel or articles, blogs, whatever, and you too find yourself dithering about, unable to get started, unable to find an entrance into the subject matter.
This is what I call stalled brain, a condition that occurs because your brain isn’t warmed up and ready to race.
If you have a car parked in a garage and it’s 20 degrees outside, chances are you sit in the car with the motor idling after you’ve started it. You wait a few minutes, warming up the engine before you put it into gear and drive away.
When writing, if you’re having difficulty getting started or if you start and stall out immediately, maybe you didn’t warm up your brain sufficiently.
Try these brain-warming exercises to get the thoughts flowing and to turn off the internal critic or editor. These work whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, short or long. The only caveat: these exercises actually work better using pen and paper than the computer, but you can try them on the computer if you like.
Write a word in the center of a page. Select a word that has something to do with the subject or theme about which you intend to write.
Draw a circle around the word then lines from the center like spokes on a wheel. At the end of each spoke, write the first word that pops into your head. Write as many words clustered around that center as you can.
Look at the cluster. What do all the words you wrote have in common? Are there some words that resonate with you? In what direction do the words lead your thoughts? Compose a sentence and write it down immediately.
In most cases, this sentence is a doorway, a lead-in, to what you want to write and will enable you to keep writing because the brain has been stimulated in that direction. The words will flow. Get the words down without stopping. Don’t give the internal editor a chance to intrude. Go back later and edit.
What are you wanting to write about? Make a list about it. Take your subject and list the first 10 thoughts that pop into your brain. Or list 10 things about some aspect of the subject that really interests you. If the subject is music, you might list 10 thoughts about it that might vary from the first song you learned as a kid to the concert you went to last night. Or maybe a list of groups you like, songs you like, songs about heartbreak, music in the movies, or scandals associated with music, etc.
Don’t try to legislate your thoughts, just let them flow and list them. Don’t even try to confine the list to a certain number. Just list, but the goal is to list as many things as possible because the more you write down, the greater the mental flow. Don’t try to prioritize the list either. The goal is to list as many things as possible as quickly as possible.
Describe something with words, and the description doesn’t have to relate to your subject at all. Perhaps you’ll write a paragraph describing your ideal reader, this is a mental creation of the person who finds what you write interesting to read. Is your ideal reader someone who looks like your mom or your spouse or your best friend or your high school English teacher?
The act of writing a description puts the brain to work in the process of putting words together to create an articulated vision. That’s what writing is all about. Write it for practice and it’s easy to just continue writing on your project.
These brain-warming techniques work because they assign your brain the task of producing words and giving those words form. Without over-thinking it, you find yourself working with words instead of agonizing over how to craft the perfect sentence. From free-flowing thoughts come written words resulting in paragraphs, pages, and books.