Inklings #3: Beginnings

It’s hard to begin.

That blank page. Those not-quite-formed ideas, scenes, characters. It’s tempting to let them slide away, to never quite be ready. Always in planning, never in progress. You stare at that blank page, and it stares back at you, looking deep into your soul where you’re quietly sure that you’ll never write anything worth reading.

That’s anxiety, and it’s fine to have, but you can’t let it rule you.

Other versions of the same procrastination problem include:

Writing every tiny bit of worldbuilding, character info, plot idea, and everything else about the story except the actual story.

Finding reason after reason why you can’t do it right at this moment, but you’ll get to it soon. Maybe next week? No, next week’s pretty busy too. Soon…

Over preparing – you gotta get a drink, a snack, oops well now you ate the snack so you should make sure you have another to hand. Is the chair comfy enough? Is the light right? Are you sitting in a posture-crippling position? You should fix that, really. Oh no, now it’s time to cook/go to work/sleep/clean the gutters so…maybe tomorrow.

This is all anxiety-driven behaviour, and that’s ok, but at some point you have to have a talk with yourself about this.

The first question to ask, of course, is “Do I really and truly want to write this? Am I putting it off because I actually don’t, maybe I just like worldbuilding, maybe this should be some other media format, maybe I think I should for some reason. Maybe, at the end of the day, for whatever reason, I just don’t want to.

If you don’t, that’s okay! You can keep poking at your world, inventing bits, having fun, and just not write stories about it. Maybe that’ll come later. Maybe you’ll make something different instead. Maybe once you give yourself permission not to, you’ll remember why you wanted to in the first place. Maybe, you’ll just drop it, and feel the relief of that load being off your shoulders.

Whatever the case, it’s OK!

If the answer to that question is yes, though, then you need to ask the next question. Why do I want to write this?

Again, your answer could be anything, but it needs to be honest. If you really do want to write this story, the reason why should be something you’re aware of. Do you just really enjoy telling stories? Have you done so before, you’re just having trouble starting this one? Are you hoping to get published (if so, why? For yourself or for someone else? For money? Because the writing industry might need a word with you about that). Every question has branches, but once you’ve answered the question of why, and settled it within yourself, you may realise that reason isn’t enough. But if it is, and you still want to: next question!

Why are you procrastinating? Why are you so anxious about starting? Is it your first story? Is it something you do every time? Is it just this story? What are you anxious about?

The answer to that is going to be something more personal to you than this blog can possibly cover. But once you’re aware of what’s going on, the next step is to figure out how you can set it aside and get started.

Because starting is still going to be hard.

There are a number of techniques you could try. More than I can go into today, but I’ll be happy to offer more thoughts at a later date on this blog, or talk to you individually (check out the Commissions page for that). Still, let me offer a couple of techniques that might work for different folk.

1) Sneaking In Sideways

If you’re writing everything around the story itself, you can make use of that! Keep your story idea in mind, and look for something around the beginning point that’s not yet written. Doesn’t matter what. Pick something to describe in the scene. Pick a character to describe. Pick an action somebody might be doing around the first scene.

Start writing that, and then, before you can think too hard on it, try sliding sideways into the first scene of your story. You can trim any fat later, but if you’re circling, this is a good way to hone in on where you actually want to start.

“The stag’s head above the bar glared down at everyone, constantly annoyed at its lack of body. Its eyes glinted in the light from the overhead lamps, and it cast a long shadow across the bar, antlers falling over the back of one of the patrons. Ernie.

Ernie turned and looked at the person to his left…”

Link whatever bit of sideways writing you’re doing to the main character or a movement within the scene, and boom, you’re there.

2) 20 Seconds

Another option is to pretty much stick out your chest, roar like a berserker, and plough forwards.

Take 20 seconds to close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Fill your lungs. Feel the air enter and leave your body. Feel the energy it brings flowing through you.

Then. Open your eyes and write whatever comes out first. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how clunky and awkward it is, write it, then keep going. Don’t stop. Turn off the spellchecker. Turn off your inner editor. Just. Write. Keep going, until your story is finished (be that in one sitting, or day by day).

3) Goal Oriented

A third option is to give yourself a goal. Whether that be 1k words, or 20 minutes of work: set your intention.

Then, turn everything that usually distracts you onto silent, close everything that’s not either your writing, or your research for this specific bit of writing, set an alarm for the time if that’s what you chose, aaaaand Go!

Then, don’t stop until you’re done. It doesn’t matter if you wrote nonsense that you’re going to need to pretty up later – you still wrote it. You’re that much further into your story than you were before.

Whatever way you do it, once you’ve started, don’t forget to reward yourself for it! It doesn’t need to be anything big. Take a walk, eat those cookies, watch that movie – whatever will help you associate writing = good, do that.

Then? Keep going! You broke through a barrier that most people never even reach! That’s great! Don’t waste it! Or I will exclamation point you until you stop!

Seriously. If you’ve written anything, after finding it that hard to begin, you’ve climbed over a huge hurdle. You owe it to yourself to finish what you started.

Enjoyed this one?

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