I open a new word doc and automatically change the font to Courier New, font size twelve. It’s what I always do when I open a new doc–its the habits of writing ingrained upon my soul. I sit, almost bouncing with excitement. At the top of the page, I center my text and type Chapter 1.
The first words. A new story is about to be born. It’s been bouncing around in my mind for six months. Some of the original inspiration has been fermenting in the depths of my writer’s brain for several years now. Now these ideas are about to be transformed into words. I will take these images, these ideals, these magical places and breathe them into being, give them shape and form.
Suddenly I am afraid. Afraid that I won’t know what to say. Afraid of typing the wrong message, giving life to the wrong ideas.
By now, after completing three novels, I’m used to the feelings. I’m used to the voices in my head (yes, we writers get used to them) feeding me constant criticism. But even now they still make me pause, too scared to type the first words.
My first three novels were great learning experiences. Each of them taught me indispensable truths about writing and about myself. But they have all fallen short of my hopes. And in the back of my mind, I’m secretly wondering, “Will this story be the one? The first one to take me to that next level?”
It’s only after staring at a blank screen for a few minutes do I realize that such worries and aspirations will not help me now. I open a new document and begin to type, not a story, but a message to myself (and my inner editor, who I named Tori).
“I’m scared. Scared that this novel will be bad. That I won’t be able to find the right words.
But so what? Big deal. The first draft is going to be bad any which way you do it. Any way you start, you’re going to revise it. So just start.
No one will ever see this. No eyes save my own will see these first words. Write something absolutely ridiculous. Just for lovely Tori. Make her so ticked off that she’ll go away. Tori, dear, I love you. But this draft is going to stink and there’s nothing you can do about that!
Confidence, dear self. Have it. Own it.
Forget the rules. Forget structure. Just GET THIS STORY OUT OF MY HEAD. Create emotion. That’s all the matters in the end.
NO one will see this draft. EVER. You can write is as terribly as you want. Because by August you won’t recognize it.
The point of this novel is to grow. To grow one step closer to a readable novel. To learn one more thing about writing. But it won’t be the last step. It won’t be perfect.”
Suddenly I feel better, as if Tori is smiling at me with understanding.
This draft, I promise myself, will be simply that–a draft. I will try to quit my horrible habit of editing as I write. I will embrace the mistakes, the quirks, the plot holes. Just enjoy the flow of words, the images, the emotion.
And so, I type the first words.