Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Where to begin?

A lot of times, it's easy for me to start writing something new. What I usually do is carry things around in my head for a while, let them stew and build up, until I just have to let the words come out onto paper. But sometimes, the well can run dry, and I can't think of the right words to write. This happened to me when I was faced with a deadline. I had everything I needed to write my article, but no words to get me started. I needed a lead. If I had my lead, I'd be good to go. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with one.

I gave that some time. I figured, if I didn't force it, I could come up with something to write in the lead. But then the days just kept passing by and I couldn't think of anything. Sometimes, getting started is the hardest thing to do with your writing. The beginning is so important, and I just couldn't figure out how, or where, to begin.

Usually, when I have this problem, I go over what I learned in my journalism class. Should I use the summary lead? The dramatic lead? A question? My mind would run through the options, trying to come up with something for each.

And sometimes, that works. Only this time, it didn't.

So I let it linger a bit longer. I know, I had that DEADLINE looming over me. But I know I could not rush this. I HAD to let the words come to me on their own.

And, finally, they did. It took a shower for me to get my lead. (Water is a creative's best friend.) I had it! I finally had it!

Except, I didn't write it down then and there. It's not like I could, anyway. I rushed through finishing the shower and then...it was gone. Those perfect, beautiful, Pulitzer Prize-winning words disappeared.


When my deadline came, I was determined to get my article written up and turned in. But still, the words eluded me. So I tried writing out various leads -- another thing I do to get the ball rolling.

That didn't work, either.

Finally, I did something I don't normally do: I logged onto Twitter. While I was supposed to be WORKING! I had everything for the article in front of me but, at the same time, had Twitter open, too. I read the tweets while at the same time, working on that lead in that "workshop in my head." (I do this with movies, too. I'll be watching a movie while also working out a story problem in my head. My family has gotten used to me jumping off of the couch and crying out "that's it!" while somebody is getting the crap beaten out of them on TV.)

I don't normally log in at Twitter while I'm writing. I used to do this -- while editing, too -- but moving my eyes away from Twitter to read a paragraph then coming back to see 85 new tweets to catch up on got to be a little too...much for me. So I stopped doing that.

Then I did it again, while struggling with this article's lead. Sometimes, I use other diversions -- like reading articles, going into "super cleaning" mode with things in the house (my microwave, in fact, was once all shiny after I was done with it because I was having trouble writing something), or bouncing a basketball around. But that evening, I used Twitter.

What's interesting is that it worked. Eventually, I had my lead and, a few moments later, while I was deep into the writing, I remembered I was logged in at Twitter. I sent out a last tweet, logged out, and got back to the article. I wrote up that whole article and turned it in. Yay!

I'll keep Twitter in mind as a diversion if I have trouble with the writing again. Maybe.

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