Fragments and Possibilities
Updated: Mar 24, 2022
When you don't know how or where to start, start small.
Present in body, but not in mind?
You’re at your desk. You look at your computer. Perhaps a quick check of emails before you start? You’ve just remembered you really need to make your shopping list. The washing won’t sort itself. Did you remember to sign that school permission slip? Oh, and if you don’t pay your credit card bill right now, you’ll forget and then you’ll be in debt. And did I mention the need to browse online for a new pair of boots?
All of these are excellent procrastination techniques. Often, we have an idea of what we want to write, but then putting the first words down feels impossible. How do we really know it’s going to be good enough? What actually is our book about? Will anyone want to read it? Will it be too hard to write? Of course, we won’t know the answers to any of those questions until we’ve written something.
Just Start Somewhere
You don’t have to have the whole work mapped out in your head. You don’t have to write the best version. You just need to start somewhere. The titles of my two favourite books on writing encapsulate this idea: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Just write something a little at a time.
Jacqui Lofthouse at thewritingcoach.co.uk has very similar advice. She calls it writing in fragments. Just write fragments for 30 or so pages, until you start to feel your way into the book. Some of these fragments may turn into chapters, some may quietly disappear. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are writing your way into your story. I found this liberated me from worrying about where to start. I could just delve into any aspect of the story that I vaguely held in my head. My writing didn’t need to follow any structure at all. It just had to be an idea I could explore. For a very structured person, this was a revelation!
That leads me onto possibilities. Another lovely tip from Jacqui Lofthouse. When you think about your first line, first paragraph, first scene etc, add the adjective ‘possible’ in front of each. So, “I’m going to write a possible first line.” Believe me, it takes the pressure off. It might be your first line, it might not. Who cares? It’s a line that you wrote to get started.
I’m going to write a possible first blog about fragments and possibilities. You might possibly read it. That’s good enough for me.