Skip the Beginning

by | Dec 3, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

Beginnings are so hard–almost as hard as goodbyes. So here’s a tip: skip them altogether. Start somewhere else.

There are so many ways to do that–writing the ending first, write a scene or sentence from the middle–but I’m going to tell you about an unusual one: begin by writing a pitch or an application or a proposal for the book or project you want to write. 

This week, I drafted a residency application the very day it opened. I haven’t sent it yet, and who knows if we’ll be accepted. But by answering the questions about why I wanted the residency, I came much closer to understanding the book that I want to write when I’m there. And when I was choosing work samples, I ended up writing a short introduction to a collaborative poem that Adam and I wrote in January 2020 and mostly forgot about, and he put it in a very nice, print-ready format. So now we have a chapbook manuscript that we can either self-publish or send to contests. 

The next day, I wrote a pitch for the New York Times Magazine. The essay is kind of a love letter, and when I sent it to Adam, he said reading it made him feel like he’s in a memoir, because writing a pitch basically means writing part of the article. So, even though the editor rejected the pitch that very day, I now have a partial draft of the essay, which I can easily finish and submit somewhere else. 

Three weeks ago, or so, I wrote some new sentences for my novel’s query letter, as if I’d already revised the novel. This really helped, again, by fixing in my mind what my goals are for the revision. 

This works for life, too. Recently, I talked to a child development expert about my child’s bedtime struggles, and she recommended envisioning exactly what we want bedtime to look like, and then move confidently in that direction. 

Prompt

Find a residency to apply for or research how to query a dream publication. Aim as high as possible for this one–it’s an exercise, but also who knows what could happen? 

Then write about your writing. Dust off an old draft and spiff it up, if you need to include a writing sample. 

Steel yourself against rejection with the knowledge that you will end up, either way, with material. You will have started. You will have skipped the pesky beginning altogether.

Keep going. Fix your sights on the horizon, rather than what’s right in front of you. Once you have the future firmly in view, just put one foot in front of the other. You will find your way.