May 15, 2013

workshop 2: imperfect beginnings

Beginning can be the hardest part, don't you think? Last week, after the first Writers Workshop, several readers asked for my thoughts on writer's block, and truth is, there's no way to move past writer's block without moving right through it. Half the battle is that very first sentence. 

When you start to write, my advice is to put down whatever phrase comes to mind, regardless of how strange or lame or clunky it may seem. Those first few words can be enough to get you going, and from there it's a matter of trusting your instincts — accepting the fact that every word won't be perfect. As with photography, one of the most important parts of writing is editing, so let yourself write freely knowing that you'll tweak, fix, and dig deeper later on.

Something to remember: A first sentence can take you in an infinite number of directions, and that sense of possibility is what makes writing fun… or miserable, depending on how picky you are. For right now, nix the early self-criticism and go with your gut, because those initial impulses will help you discover what kind of writer you are naturally.

Example: If I'm working with the phrase It wasn't easy to say, these are my first instincts:

It wasn't easy to say, but he needed to know the truth.
It wasn't easy to say, I could tell, and she struggled to meet my eyes as she spoke.
It wasn't easy to say, but if I had to guess, I'd have admitted that he probably loved me.
It wasn't easy to say to my mom, but hell, if I couldn't tell her, who was left?
It wasn't easy to say how I felt, but I knew I'd already given myself away with the anxious wave.

Ready to put the idea into practice? I'll share a short, simple phrase to use as the starting point, and from there, you can write whatever you want — a few sentences, a few paragraphs, fiction, non-fiction, dialogue, anything. The key is to let yourself follow those first impulses, writing whatever comes to mind with that first phrase. And the real fun comes into play when we see how differently people spin those simple words, so please link to your work below so that the rest of us can check it out!

Prompt: I knew he loved me... 
I knew he loved me from the way he said my name — slowly, as if he hoped to give each syllable its due. His voice seemed lighter when he spoke it, airy, so that my name always came out as a sigh.

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If you decide to participate, share the link to your work using the "Add Your Link" button below, then join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #LTCWorkshop!


Kayla Lynn said... [Reply to comment]

i like this prompt :) first time linking up but i have a feeling i will like this.

Amanda said... [Reply to comment]

When reading blogs, it is easy to get the impression that a blogger's writings come easily and that they are always happy with their writing. When I write, I constantly critique and criticize myself, often resulting in a deleted post that nobody will ever read. Do you, as a professional writer, ever criticize your own writing and deem it unreadable or do you have a way of getting past that and just publishing anyway?

Laura Marie Meyers said... [Reply to comment]

@Kayla Lynn Thanks, Kayla! Excited to read your writing :)

Maura said... [Reply to comment]

another beautiful post!

I agree with Amanda's comment - how do you overcome your own criticism? I'm a terrible perfectionist and that means I have hundreds of drafts of things, I never think are quite done. But I've heard that many writers encounter this fear.

Niken said... [Reply to comment]

i find it hard to write something like this. ahaha. who knew.

i got a writing advice that sometimes, it's easier to write from the end to make a beginning. it worked for me when i have to write press release and straight news. but i haven't tried it to write fiction or features story.

i think we do criticize our writings a lot. i never let anyone read my writings before because i judged myself first. but when i shared it with other people, i found it help to overcome my own criticizm.

Katie said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for the advice about following your first impulse- it was so helpful. It definitely made the writing come more freely. I think our minds go there first for a reason and we owe it to ourselves to follow it. I also learned from your beautiful post that sometimes you don't need to use a lot of words. Thanks so much for all your help!

pretender said... [Reply to comment] just following up dear laura , hope you will check out :)

Hope Johnson said... [Reply to comment]

Am loving this workshop! It is keeping me thinking and challenged. I've never used prompts before with creative writing but I can see how useful it is now. I think the very concept of a writing group reflects the impossibility of perfection with a creative endeavour. It's all about the learning and the practising.

nanne said... [Reply to comment]

cannot wait to read your first novel!