Frustration radiating from her, a student seeking guidance on yet another essay wailed, “I’ve done all the research. I just don’t know how to start!”
I nodded sagely. “I’m going to let you in on a secret.”
After shooting around a few furtive glances, I moved in a bit closer for the revelation.
“Everyone, including professional writers, has a hard time starting. The secret is we just fake it, just start writing something, and clean it up in revision.”
Yes, folks, at the risk of losing my standing in the Mysteries of Writing Guild, I tell you that beginning a project is one of the greatest hurdles any writer must overcome. It’s just that practiced writers have learned to just start, prime the pump as it were.
The trap so many writers fall into, especially novice writers, is the idea their work should be perfect first time out.
No! No, I say! There’s a reason the Word Deities have allowed humans to invent the “delete” key! It’s called “revision.”
It is so hard to convince people that putting the effort into revising their writing actually makes life much easier. Students just want to “write it” and hand it in. (Hey, I was a student once. I did the same thing.)
Revision is more than a quality issue; it gives writers the license to write poorly. It strips away the pressure to be perfect. It locks away the mental editor poised with her blue pen and focuses on conjuring the raw diamonds of ideas.
Uninhibited, the literary mustang can be free to write whatever comes to mind only later corralling those thoughts into something organized and understandable by the reader.
So, when you’re faced with starting a writing project, think of the immortal words offered by Nike’s marketing department:
“Just do it!”