“It was a dark and stormy night.”
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
“Call me Ishmael.”
These are the opening lines of four books that I read when I was growing up, and I actually memorized all four of these beginnings.
Not intentionally; they just left such an impact that I have retained them in my memory over the years. (For those of you who want to Google these lines right now to find where they’re from, the books I quoted from were A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and Moby Dick by Herman Melville.)
These are great beginnings, some of the most famous in literature.
Fast forward to me sitting at my desk in The Chanticleer office, with pages of notes from an interview and me staring at my computer screen.
My fingers hover over the keyboard, but the Word document in front of me is blank.
That’s because I’m not very good at writing leads. Once I get started, my words just start flowing out onto the page. But I feel such a pressure to make some profound opening statement with each article, essay or column that I write, it’s crazy.
The hardest part is getting started. Just like an artist learns to ‘conquer the power of the white’, and make the first marks on their canvas, a writer has to learn to just start writing.
There will be time to create some catchy opening words during the editing phase of the writing process.
That’s how everything is at first, I guess; getting started is the hard part.
Whether it’s learning a new skill, going into a relationship, starting a new job, or moving to a new city or state, the decision to change from the old, to create something new, is a difficult one.
As time progresses, you learn to adjust to the changes. You form new routines until the new becomes the familiar.
But when it comes to taking that initial leap-writing the beginning of your story-you have second (third, fourth, fifth) thoughts. You’re not sure if you are making the right decision.
I’m just going to be honest. Alabama is my home, but I’ve never really wanted to spend the rest of my life here. I enjoy traveling and exploring new places, and have always thought about how exciting it would be to live somewhere like New York City or Washington D.C.
But the more I think about the unknown, the more I plan for my coming-all-too-soon future, I feel that mix of excitement and anxiety that comes with the start of something new.
The beginning of a story sets the scene for the middle and the ending. That is both the beauty and the problem of it.
I’ll never know how my life will be different if I move away after graduation or stay in Anniston.
All I can do is sit at my computer and write.