Blogging · On Writing

Off to a Terrible Start

Long ago, a group of artists finished their artworks with deliberate additions of mistakes. Mistakes varied, depending on the artist and the medium. It could be a brushstroke, a tiny imperfection in the varnish, something that the casual admirer would never notice. The artist would know, however, and that meant that their maker knew and thus the eternal imbalance between human artist and divine creator was perfectly maintained.

This approach to creation of art is reflected in the story of the human weaver Ariadne and the goddess Aphrodite. Talented Ariadne was allowed to create exceptional works of art as long as she included an imperfection (so as not to challenge the perfection of the goddess). When Ariadne fails to make her mistake, one thing leads to another and at the end of the story, the poor woman has been transformed into a spider.

As a writer, I take these artistic creation stories very seriously. It seems pretty simple: write an excellent story and then make a small dollop of words go sideways and ruin its perfect flow. It could be a custom enhancement for my favorite word processing program, a cue to ensure that the error is glowing wonderfully strong and evil when I do my final review.

My problem is that I can’t wait that long. If I don’t get that mistake out of the way at the very beginning, no writing is going to get done. Knowing this about myself, I have developed a process that works marvelously well. Perhaps it might do the same for you.

Here it is: Start every piece with a terrible sentence or series of sentences. Mistake done, there is no need to worry that it will be forgotten or wonder if it’s time to work it in.

Here’s how I do it. I turn on the computer, figure out what I am going to work on, and then I dive in head first. I get a good, solid running start and slam the worst possible beginning down on the page.

Splat! It is spectacular. The lurching, grinning monster is hideous, magnificent in flaming wrongness. There is no hope of redeeming even the smallest bit of it. The stench is incredible. This mistake is one of the best ones yet, so inspiring that I now head right into the work.

I push myself up from the road, brush off twigs and dirt, and race as far as I can get from the shrieking muck. I don’t let myself think. My sole focus is to get those words down, capture my surging ideas, and keep moving fast no matter what.

My red pencil-wielding editor ego doesn’t get involved. It’s already occupied. Mute with horror, it stares at the horrible mistake at the very beginning. It can’t go on until that is fixed — and there is no fixing that monster, so there the editor remains while I romp, run, and roar through to a finished piece.

So, should it ever be hard to get started with a story or a blog post, an essay, anything, start by flinging the worst possible idea that you can come up with at the page and then keep on going. Let the mistake be its stinking loathesome self while you capture the essence of a brilliant concept, shattering insight, and an essential perspective.

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2 thoughts on “Off to a Terrible Start

  1. Leaping in! Just so! The blank page is daunting, so landing with the splat you describe is a good way to get going and no fear of falling because you’re doing it on purpose! XO

    Like

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