“There’s a difference between a work’s beginning and starting to work.” –Twyla Tharp.
In her book, The Creative Habit: Get It and Use It for Life, the acclaimed dancer and choreographer shares the habits and mental approaches she uses to infuse creativity into her own life.
For many of us, getting started on any creative project is the hardest part. Recognizing this, Tharp writes about a professor friend of hers who struggled with writing his academic articles. He couldn’t get started. He’d covered the actual thinking and research, but when it came to write, he simply didn’t know how to begin. So he didn’t. Finally, he realized that the article’s “beginning was not the same as beginning to write.” Understanding that he could start writing in the middle of the piece, or even, compose the ending first, freed him to start. And of course, once he started writing, the beginning eventually came.
Many of us, are just like Tharp’s friend. We have a story or an essay or a poem floating around in our head and we assume that when we sit down to write, we need to start writing from the first line. We might even try to write that first line, but it sounds so bad that we scrape it, and try again with no better luck. Finally, frustrated, we stop.
But the truth is, writing a first draft doesn’t have to be done chronologically. Start wherever you feel comfortable. Not only is it okay to write an awkward, crummy, awful first line. It is equally okay to jump into the middle, or even write the ending first. The important thing is, as Tharp reminds us, to just start.