The Beginning Blues

When first considering the most difficult part of writing, I immediately thought, “beginning…that is the hardest thing about writing.”  However, as I pondered over writing difficulties for the next few days, I felt as though most people would have the same reaction. The first thing I did was question my own response. Why was that my first reaction? Is that just a cop-out answer? Searching my mind for other areas of frustration during the writing process, I found that beginning my work truly was the most difficult for me. In fact, before I could even start this blog post, I had to get a few outside opinions. Unsurprisingly, everyone said the same thing. “Getting started” is also the most difficult part of writing for my mom, brother, and boyfriend. All I needed was to hear a few others say it to confirm my suspicions. It also helped that I realized I put off starting the post for about a week because I had to make sure that I really did have trouble with beginnings, and back up my opinion with others opinions because I couldn’t start without doing that…you get the idea.  The “beginning blues” as I am now calling it, is a problem I have heard from most other students and writers. However, something about it seemed so trite to me.  I then tried to discover what it really was about “beginning” that is so intimidating to me.

Before I can begin, I find I need a fairly decent time for my ideas to “marinate,” as I like to put it. The problem seems to come right at the end of this stage. Once my ideas have soaked up all the flavorful juices they can while sitting in my brain, I realize that only the middle is ready to be thrown on the grill. For creative writing, I tend to have a fully formed movie trailer in my head, complete with a musical store to accent the drama. Flitting images of scenes and emotions stream through my mind in the perfect order, creating suspense that would leave anyone wanting the full story to see how it turns out. Unfortunately, I usually need to include myself in this category. These images flirt with my fingers over the keys, teasingly allowing me to feel the story, but running by too fast for me to write anything down.  Movie trailers rarely start with the beginning of the movie. They show the most exciting and intriguing parts to get you interested. Yet, the beginning of the movie is, obviously, essential.  Leave it to my brain to subconsciously do the easy part first and leave the difficult part to me. Of course the first thing I would recommend to myself would be to write out of sequence. Write whatever I feel, and get to the beginning at a later time. For creative writing, I find I can do this and it usually helps to get me going. However, when it comes to academic writing, I absolutely cannot write out of order. I feel very different about the two writing styles. That is not to say I believe academic writing takes no creativity. Quite the contrary. However, when it comes to writing a story or writing a research paper, my emotional and psychological response is completely different.

For academic writing, I also need to let my ideas marinate. However, I also need to pound them out for tenderness while they are in the marinating bag. I find that when I write for school, my ideas need to take shape more in my head before I begin. Once I reach the stage in which I am ready to write, that is the hardest part: the literal beginning of a paper. I absolutely cannot write anything before writing my introduction. Even if I outline before writing, I have to write in order. Perhaps this is what makes beginning so difficult; not only is it tough to get those initial ideas out, but I also have the weight of the entire paper hanging on it. I need to write the beginning first, because that is how I write the rest of my paper. I tend to edit as I go, because as soon as I have a pause in my thought process, or don’t know what to say next, I immediately read over what I have. I constantly refer back to the beginning to move forward. The beginning of a paper is such an obstacle for me that I sometimes spend up to an hour agonizing over what could end up being just half a page. Conversely, once the beginning of my paper is complete, I find that the rest comes very easily. I consider this the “grilling” process, and the flame-broiling kick to my system moves the process along very quickly.

Although I seem to have the beginning blues when it comes to writing, somehow I still always get my work done! Perhaps the pressure I put on the beginning creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe I really don’t let my ideas marinate as long as they need to before pounding them and throwing them on the grill. However, if there is no change that can make the beginning process easier for me, I am assured by the simple knowledge that writing is a process I enjoy, with or without the beginning blues. Once my writing is off the grill and on the plate for evaluation, I am usually quite satisfied.

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  • Norman C. DeFilippo says:

    Be free, write your conclusion first. Write it all out of order. write too much! Write about stuff that obviously has no place in your paper! Be free! Be free!

  • Alison Nolan says:

    Nikki- I think it is true that most people have trouble getting started and I like the metaphors you use to describe this issue– very clever! I find it interesting, however, that I seem to have the opposite problem. I can always find “something” to write about. In fact, the only time I remember having writer’s block was during the GRE’s (bad time to have writer’s block). My issue is with polishing my writing– I never know when I’m done. Do you have this problem? Read my post and let me know what you think. Thanks!


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