Why are Beginnings Hard? Try this Strategy to Break Into Your Writing

One of the most common challenges faced by writers is how hard it can be to start writing something.

You’re in the mood to write. You get a legal pad and a pen, brew a cup of coffee, and sit down. Your cat is assisting you by flapping her tail across your legal pad.

You think, “Hmm. What should I title this?”

Scribble scribble scribble.

“No, that’s not the right title.”

Slower scribbling.


At some point in between having the idea to write and then actually sitting down, you seem to have lost track of what the hell it was you were supposed to be doing.

So you sit sitting there drinking coffee, petting your cat. Staring out the window at the rain.

“How the hell am I supposed to begin this amazing story?”

The block in this case is the sense that you need the right entry point to the thing you want to write. When you start writing, it doesn’t look like a good way to begin your story or article or whatever.

Here’s the thing: The beginning we see when we read someone’s finished piece is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of the way the writer began that writing session.

The beginning to a book or story and the beginning of a writing session are two completely different things.

When you sit down to start writing, it doesn’t mean you have to begin by writing your introduction. When you start writing, you can write whatever you want and figure out a good beginning much later.

There are a zillion right ways you could potentially start most any project. Your project is no exception. If you feel unsure, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean you need to research more.

Or you might feel that you need a writing prompt to help get you started. But, you think, how can a writing prompt help when I want to write something that is all my own?

Beginnings are easier when you let the process be simple. Let the right beginning come later. Just focus on your topic and don’t worry if the way you start writing doesn’t look like how you will want your piece to begin.

Cue the Yoda voice for this next tidbit:

Not all beginnings… like beginnings look yet.


The secret to starting a writing session

Just have your general topic in mind… and start anywhere. Let yourself be awkward. Get it “wrong.” When you do it this way, you will be writing about your topic in no time.

Be patient with yourself. Even better: be stubborn!

The first moments after you start out, you might not be on topic just yet.

That’s OK. All you need to do is start. You don’t have to be on topic yet. First, you just need to be moving toward the topic.

Circle around the topic. Go around and around if you have to.

You might think of your topic as a container that you can’t attack directly or else it will get spooked and it won’t unlock for you. You have to circle around it, and the more you do so, the closer you get to it. It feels like a struggle, maybe, but you keep at it. Before long, you’re actually inside your topic. You think you’re still struggling but actually you are succeeding.

We think that the beginning is supposed to look the way it does in a published book. But we haven’t even started it yet.

Writing is a process. I happen to find that process fascinating, because it looks different for everyone. I have found that there are many commonalities with the way that we navigate the creative process, mostly based on the way that we have been conditioned to do things.

Begin your writing session by just writing to clarify what it is you hope to eventually say

If we think about how we approach a friend with a topic, maybe it can feel more natural. With a normal topic, we don’t obsess about how we’re going to begin it.

“Hey, I wanted to ask you . . . .”

And then we say our topic. We just spit it out.

Don’t worry about the beginning. Don’t start at the beginning. Just write toward your topic. From wherever you happen to be. It doesn’t matter as long as you have your topic in mind and you are making steps towards relevance.

You’ll get there before you know it.

It really is that simple.

See what might happen when you let it stay simple.

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