Sometimes it pays to be a beginner

It’s not often that I find myself a beginner. Writing is my thing. It’s what I do best and in times of comfort, anger and happiness. It makes me feel better than anything else. And I know that my anxiety plays up the more that I haven’t sat down to lose myself in a story.

But sometimes the anxiety of starting doesn’t go lost on me. I coach my clients through this and even though I have all the tools and a story arc that I have going on right now has been with me for 15 years. It’s still fresh and raw whenever I find myself starting something new.

What does a writing coach do when they have a fresh idea and a blank page? Well, you’re in luck, you get to see right down into the neuroticism of my writing life right here and now.

It may not make sense to you, but that’s how I start, so bear with me here.

The story concept isn’t completely new. It’s dystopian and there is a law enforcement and a resistance. Sometimes I get deep feelings and with this one there’s a couple, but that’s about it. I have time jumps but I don’t have names, I don’t have places. I have two people and some abilities and that’s it.

And the first thing that I did, actually before even contemplating that I wanted to write it out was write it out in my morning pages, this was actually super duper helpful because I was able to explore the idea a little bit and get down as much as possible of what I remember down on paper. This is generally the easiest way and why I always carry my phone or something to write on with me at all times.

Write down the fuzzy idea

Once I did that my next issue is always to find the right music and the hardest part with new pieces is that I have such an array of different music (everything except country!) but the problem with having such an array of music is that hearing one song can take me back to the last scene I wrote it, or the last character that used it so sometimes I need to get out of what I know and into something new. This is where Spotify comes into it. I had been an avid Spotify ignorer because I loved the randomness of Pandora and the new and awesome songs it would give me that were very much like the artist I started with.

But this time I knew that I needed something different. Something that was new. I had just finished watching Allegiant (and I really dig that movie, Theo James and Shaileene Woodley probably sit into the characters the BEST in this movie) but Scars by Tove Lo was delightful and I wanted to find music like that.

I went for a walk and played a little on my phone, figuring that anything I listened to there would pop up onto my computer, but I was wrong. It didn’t. It actually got lost and I had found the most amazing song that was perfect for a scene.

My frustrations were off the chart. I had a blank page and I spent 30 minutes trying to find the song. I gave up and settled on one that I thought would help my writing. It did.

I started at the blank page and let the words run wild.

 Just write

And while I was writing I finally got somewhere some random names cropping up but then I found my next hurdle: Choosing names for characters.

Well fuck.

This is one that always stumps me because if names aren’t right, then I can’t write and if I can’t write…well you know what happens, everything else slows down and that makes it impossible.

And after being delayed for the music, I didn’t need more delays when it came to writing. But it seemed that I needed it.

Out came my name book after searching the internet wasn’t fruitful and I wasted time a while and you know what I ended up with?

Names that I have used for single characters or a name that popped up almost two years ago.

Trust the process. Just fucking write

Procrastination gets me, perfectionism gets me. I am a creature of dodging around what I need to do until there is a deadline pressed up against me and I know nothing more, nothing less and while it’s how I work, it’s not productive.

It also meant that I would get close to four hours sleep until I go the story out of my head and onto the page and onto a good start.

Nearly 6k later I had the scene that plagued me for two days out on paper. It freed up the room I needed to get everything and anything else done. It allowed me to work on client work and editing and reading.

Let it consume you

Stories are meant to be consumed by others, but more so it’s meant to actually allow you to be consumed. If the writing doesn’t consume you and if you’re not on the edge of your seat then you take a step back, go for a walk, go to the gym or listen to some cool music and recalibrate yourself to actually sit down and write. Because if you’re not on the edge of your seat how do you expect your readers to feel when they come it? Think about that.

Here’s the TL;DR version:

  1. Write the fuzzy idea two.
  2. Just write
  3. Trust the process. Just fucking write.
  4. Let it consume you.
  5. Write as if someone is holding a gun to your head and forget about mistakes.

The last one is my secret weapon for getting out words on the page. Red lines, misshapen words, simple words, wrong words, are all a part of getting the words on the page.

So what are you going to do today to get your words on the page? Leave me a comment below and let’s chat about it.

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Mandi is a writer, reader, dreamer and is breaking procrastinating inner editors, one at a time.

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