If it were 1976, the wastebasket by my desk would be filled to overflow with balled up and discarded bits of paper, torn from my typewriter and pitched without a second thought.
I’m terrible with beginnings, you see.
Everyone has something.
What I do when I’m starting a new project is to put my fingers on the keys and just start typing. I generally get four or five sentences in before I do the modern equivalent of tearing out the paper and tossing it, which is to select everything and hit delete.
Then I start typing again, with the same scene, but from a slightly different angle of attack, looking for a different mood or approach. I get another few sentences in, and then delete the whole thing and start over again.
It’s like I’m writing notes to a musical composition, and I have to find the proper melody for the song before I can really explore where the music is heading. If my first few bars don’t present a tune that I want to hum, then I want to start them over again until I find that one, perfect string of notes that allows me to really get my groove on.
And start them over.
And start them over again.
And then I find that beginning, type the first and the last words of it, and I am unstoppable. When my beginning has been carved and molded into just the perfect representation of what I have in my head, the rest of the words flow out of me in a wild rush, and I don’t look back until I get to the end.
I like that rush. I think it’s my favorite part of writing, and every one of you who writes knows exactly what I’m talking about. You’re in the zone. You are blessed. You are creation itself. There is no better feeling than that. None at all.
And for me, all it takes is rewriting the first few sentences of a piece over and over and over and over…
… until I totally nail it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to roll another sheet of paper into this old Underwood here–only manual for me, there’s something cold and soulless about the electric ones–and get back to producing a few more dozen balls of crumpled waste.
There’s a perfect beginning coming up, just a few more pieces of paper down the road.
I can feel it in my fingertips.