Time to start again.
I believe it is a rule that we are always lost when we begin.
I have taken the last twenty days more or less off, a rest from the turbulence of the end of last year and the writing of the last twelve months. Time to recover and to remember how to just lay on the couch and watch television or to just read an email or a book. Time to get sick with a cold and shop for a new car to replace the one that died last year, and to realize just how much I enjoy driving fast. Time for new stories to bubble from my imagination, waiting to be told.
And now, now I remember that I am A Writer. And writers write.
How do I write? How do we ever write, how do we take this beast called plot and character, how do we describe the actions of life in black and white markings?
Beginnings are full of awkward abstractions. It is not like the business of my day job, making sandwiches for hungry professionals. With a sandwich, there are limited factors, a set rhythm – choose the bread and cut it apart, spread sauces and cheeses and meat in piles with vegetables and then wrap it in foil and start again.
Writing is like that, if you had to bake the bread for each sandwich, making it with no recipe, and imagine what kind of animal the meat came from before you set it down, if the person eating the sandwich could only taste what we describe in words about the food. And as we hand it over, desperately trying to remember if we described accurately the way the tomato seeds are small and yellow in the gelatin of the fruit pulp and how the addition of cheddar cheese should add some bite to the turkey. Or if that would detract from the point of the multi grain bread.
The beginning is always impossible. We reinvent not only the wheel, but the pen, the word, the practice of hands on keyboard. We must choose what invented mind to tell the story from, we must manufacture emotions and hope that what we think we feel is the same feelings others have. We choose one person to tell from, or several, if we are in the future or the past, and even in the present we must find the color of the drapes that the light filters through in the morning.
It is even worse if we have a clear picture, the half-formed Polaroid, because it all must add up to that feeling we had when the photo developed in our quaking minds. We find a good first line, and want the rest of the melody we write to match that cadence, and when we hit a sour note it jolts us down to our tailbone that we have gone astray. And we are so tempted to quit and let the unwritten story stay perfect in our imagination.
It all feels so impossible, to begin. Especially when we have begun before, and we cannot remember the way back. Because no two beginnings are ever the same.
You see, most mythology has it all wrong. In the beginning, there was not darkness, nor was there the void.
In the beginning, there is always chaos.
And we are the reluctant masters of that chaos. We peer into that squiggling mass of possibility and have the courage to plunge into the uncertainty and the despair and wonder and the feeling of too many worlds all crowding about us wanting to be born from the unknown.
Endless possibility can often look like nothing, and we call the frozen feeling of Too Much “writers block” and we give it power, we write books about writers block (irony), we believe that it is a demon but really it is just a shape in the din of everything possible in the universe waiting to be breathed full of life.
We must remember that the difference between nothing and everything is merely a tilt of the head, a grasp of a new beginning, the willingness to wander lost into a forest with nothing but a small stub of pencil behind our ear as protection and to know that we will be okay, because the hero always lives. Not only do they live, but they are stronger for it.
We must trust the chaos to have more than we will ever need, even when it only looks like blackness, the kind of blackness with sharp teeth hiding inside. But we are not afraid, even if we think we are. We invent the fear too, and so can we invent bravery. Bravery to be bold, to be terrible, to be brilliant, to write that first paragraph and continue on to the last.
And so must we begin. Again.