Friday, March 15, 2013

Beginnings (AKA Alert Level Red) Cheryl Renée Herbsman

There is nothing like a crisp white page (whether paper or screen)...

... to scare the crap out of a writer. It's exciting, yes, thrilling even. It's also deeply terrifying. Starting a new project is like Christmas morning before the presents have been opened (I'm guessing here. Having never celebrated Christmas I honestly don't know, but it seems like this is how it would feel!) The possibilities and anticipation are almost more exciting than any reality could ever be.(Although I suppose there isn't usually a sense of terror -- unless one's family members or friends have a sick sense of humor and one is afraid there might be zombie parts in one of those pretty boxes.) The fear: what if nothing comes. (What if none of those pretty boxes is for me?)

Even once we start, there's fear. The reality of the finished product can never truly meet up with the imagined idea of what could be. Don't get me wrong, the convoluted path on which our stories take us can lead us to marvelous and unexpected places. And typing The End is one of the most satisfying moments writers enjoy.

But I digress. (Do you see how I managed to skirt away from the blank page issue?) Beginnings -- filled with equal parts awe, excitement, inspiration, and terror -- are a key part of the process. Some writers have pages of notes and ideas and plans or even outlines before they truly begin. For pantsers or organic writers, some of us have basic ideas of where we're headed, others don't. I tend to be on the outlier end of the pantser continuum.

When I open that new blank document, I know nothing. No outline. No character. No direction or goal or theme. No plot. Not even a genre.

I just turn to the page, (instruct myself not to panic and repeat), slip away to an inward place, and listen. And sometimes, when I'm very, very lucky, I hear a little voice, one that has a story to tell. I become the net that catches her words and sets them loose on the page. It only takes a few words to know I've caught a live one. And once those first words are down... well, then it's not the beginning anymore, it's on to the middle! And the first of the shiny wrapped gifts has been opened. And somehow, once I know I'm in it, it's not so terrifying anymore.

Then comes the middle, which has its own set of problems. But that's a story for another day ;)


  1. haha! I love that ending, Cheryl--SO true!

    A great post on what starting a writing project (or any project, really) is like. There is always excitement and anticipation and fear beneath that shiny wrapping paper, just waiting for us to dive in and experience it. Thanks for reminding me!

  2. YES! Writing is absolutely filled with fear! So like a live performance...