September 3, 2015 by Gregory Josephs
A Place to Begin
There may be no greater struggle in the life of a writer than choosing the first words of something—anything! How do you ensure you’re making the correct first impression? The right words are immortal:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again.”
Finding a place to begin is daunting. That’s where I am today in multiple ways. I’m at the beginning of a few things—this blog being first and foremost in my mind at the moment. I think I’ve got a pretty short window of words to convince you that my scribbles here are worth reading, so I’d better dive in and tell you what I’m trying to accomplish.
Its going to be a journey, and I’m counting on you coming along with me.
I’ve got this book project. Its sort of a memoir with artificial flavors added. I started it about a million years ago when I was out of work with appendicitis at the tender age of 25. 10,000 words in it sat collecting dust on my hard drive until two years later I found myself out of work again with a broken foot.
At that point things really took off! In the two months I was laid up I pushed out 40,000 words. I spent the better part of every morning typing away and pacing around the apartment on my crutches chewing over sentences in my head and deciding what was going to happen next. I was really into it—living the life and obsessing over each plot twist. My pace was extraordinary. I thought this is going to be my life. I’m going to finish this book by Christmas and it’ll get published and then this is how I’ll live every day! It’ll be me, a coffee and a keyboard.
Then my foot healed and I had to go back to work. My intentions were great, and I might have finished another chapter, but the pace I’d held while I was injured and the high expectations I placed upon myself were just untenable. The manuscript went right back to collecting dust.
An entire year passed before I resumed again. Over a two month period I pushed out another 25,000 words. The speed was still a little break-neck considering I had other obligations—like working full-time. I spread myself thin and there were some days I’d look up at the clock after a morning of writing and realize I had seven minutes to shower, pack a lunch, gather what I needed for work and get out the door. Once again, it just didn’t last.
Now its been another two years. I’m thirty one and I can’t believe I’ve let this project go on so long. I really believe I have something to say—a real human story. It wants to be told.
So I’m looking for a place to begin. The obvious answer is with chapter one. I’m a much different person than I was six years ago, and I know that I can write better now than I did then. I’m reading it again, and I’m rewriting as I go. There are fourteen chapters so far and I’m impatient to get to totally new material, but if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right.
Now, you may be wondering, whats different this time? What is going to keep me from spreading myself thin yet again? Why should you bother getting invested in this project when my track record clearly shows I don’t have a shot in hell of finishing?
First of all, I expect no distractions. The summer has ripened and is coming to an end. A long, glorious fall stretches out in front of me with no trips, no crazy work commitments and no extraordinary life events. In the past two years I married my husband and we bought a condo—I’m finished with time consuming adult-life projects for a while. Since children aren’t in our immediate future I don’t have to worry about any big life landmarks. I’m allowed to coast for a while.
Secondly, resuming this project has been a long time coming. At the urging of one of my best friends—an author in her own right—I enrolled in a thirty day writing challenge at the end of January. Not only was it extraordinarily fun to write every single day regardless of what else I had going on, it set me up to learn writing as a discipline. That thirty days has turned into over seven months of uninterrupted journal entries. Indeed, at this point the word count of my journal dwarfs my manuscript. I’ve written from the top of mountains. I’ve written when I can barely keep my eyes open. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, if I haven’t journaled today and the clock is approaching midnight, I can find five minutes for a few sentences.
I think I’m ripe for this.
And if you’ve read all the way to the end of this post—I know its quite long—then I’d like to invite you again to come along with me on this journey to finish the damned thing! I’ll regularly be posting my triumphs and my struggles. Lets interact. Tell me how you’re feeling about the writing. Keep me motivated and I’ll keep you entertained.
And so I’ve begun! Are you coming along?