Starting Is The Hardest Part

Despite what some people try to tell me, starting something sucks. I hate it. It’s trench warfare. It’s charging the machine guns through mustard gas. No, that’s a rubbish metaphor. It’s nothing like that.

Starting is not knowing where you’re headed or how to get there. Starting is knowing the only way home is through an impassable forest, only you don’t know where the forest is or if there actually is a forest.

All the energy and excitement I’ve got from feeling really confident about a novel idea? That energy wants somewhere to go. It wants a page and it wants to put words on that page immediately. Which I can’t let it can’t do, because, at that point, I haven’t a clue what I’m writing. If I took all the New Fun Starting energy and turned it loose on the page, I’d wash out after a few moronic, vapid pages and decide I’d been wrong, so wrong, so utterly wrong about the whole idea.

Which is what happened to Mimesis last November, when I wrote a thousand or so words before getting lost and giving up.  At least, by last year, I’d come to know myself well enough to realize it wasn’t the story’s fault, but mine. I didn’t know the story, and I needed to step back and figure out what I was missing. I still had to start. I needed to suss out what I was writing, which meant…

…ahh, see? Meant what? That’s where I am, now. Should I start with character backgrounds? Whose? Or should I start with something else? An outline? Another outline? What?  Starting is working in a vacuum, making guesses and hoping I end up fumbling over something. It’s arbitrary decisions and dead ends.

If I can get past that, there’s momentum. There’s weight behind me. The weight of my choices, of the characters’ decisions, of everything, pushing me to the next step. There’s a gravitational pull given off by the collective mass of what’s come before. A lot of people feel like the middle of things is where the slogging begins. Maybe they’re right, but slogging means I’ve found the forrest. Means there is a forest. Means there is a way home.

First I have to start.

And, no, I don’t like starting things. Not at all.

Whoever set things (i.e. Life, The Universe and Everything) in motion didn’t take that into consideration. So, start I must. Start I will. Starting, I am.

I spent the weekend digging hard into Mimesis. I’d been spinning my wheels for weeks, pecking out paragraphs on thematic intentions and mythological background. Finally, I realized I should just open up a page and start rattling off the backstory for one of my main characters. Frustration over my lack of momentum broke down the fear of making bad decisions, I think. I went into the weekend expecting more wheel spinning, but all at once: wham wham wham!

That was the sound of a bunch of stuff hitting my brain at once.

In case that was unclear.

Had I really convinced myself I was ready to write Mimesis last year? The things I figured out this weekend weren’t just detail. The story was straight up empty without them. Meaningless. That thought planted a little seed of fear: How can I trust myself when I think I’m ready this time?  The answer is: I can’t, and I have to let myself walk into another false start if that’s what I need, but not take a year to figure out why I needed it.

I’ll ride this particular roller coaster a few more times before I get anywhere near writing. The clicking-up-the-hill part never gets less stressful, but thankfully, neither does the race downhill get any less exhilarating. This last weekend was great. If I can keep the great going for a few more, I might be able to start writing and know what it is I’m talking about. Until then, I’d best keep faith that the forest is out there, waiting for me to find it and get lost in its depths.

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3 Responses to Starting Is The Hardest Part

  1. Mere says:

    I just start. Type away, type away, type away, until I find something I like. Then I begin molding things around that thing I like. Then I slowly figure out what the hell I’m doing, and where it’s going. And then I just take dictation from my head. Of course, sometimes my head is uncooperative, but I find filling it with mind-altering substances often helps. If not, you can always resort to a concussion or an aneurysm of some sort. If all else fails, decapitation is guaranteed to solve the problem.

  2. Eric says:

    Oddity: I can do this immediately-start-writing-ideas thing only if I do it in a notebook and not on a keyboard. So I carry a Moleskine around with me and work in that and very rarely even go back to look at it later. It’s just a way for me to thinkthinkthink through things until I’m ready to commit to a real note/outline that I intend to use for actual writing.

    The jump from one to the other still gives me headaches and fits, though.

    And I’m envious of you fast-starters. A lot.

  3. Pingback: The Moment When The Cart Starts Rolling Down The Hill | Saalon Muyo

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