Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How I Begin

Labour Day weekend is fast approaching, and that means the end of summer holidays and the start of a new school year. Although it's been ages since we had a child leaving our home to go to school, I watch the big, orange buses on the road beyond my window.

September 1st has always seemed to me a more appropriate time for New Year's than January 1st. What better time for making fresh starts and new resolutions than when your pencil case is filled with unbitten pencils, the crayons in the classroom are still whole and your running shoes brand-new?

For me as a writer, September 1st this year will be when I start a new writing project. I wish I was one of those writers whose mind is chock full of stories. Mine never is, and my search for a new idea always follows the same pattern.

I begin by free writing, or doing "morning pages" as Julia Cameron called them in her fabulous book, The Artist's Way, (G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1992). I will write at least three pages of whatever crosses my mind every morning. No stopping to read or edit until the three pages are filled. Then I'll read what I've written and underline any bit that sounds as if it has some potential.

The pages go into a file folder called "Morning Pages". It'll get pretty thick before the end of the exercise.
I may, at some point, peruse my notebooks or check through the file I have of "Stories Begun but not Finished". In the end, though, it will come down to the morning pages.

That is where the magic will happen--the connection between a number of loose ideas, or the appearance of a fresh, new character who wants me to follow him or her. It always starts with the character, for me.
It may take weeks of free writing, months even, but I know it will happen. And when it does, the writing will take off.

Keep that pencil moving.

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