How to Write Like a Badass: Part 1.
“The scariest moment is always just before your start.” — Badass Stephen King.
You’re at the top of a jumping rock, looking down on the rippling surface 30 feet beneath you. You’re not entirely sure how you got there. You’re pretty sure it didn’t look this high when you were in the water.
People below are hooting and hollering, cheering you on. You know the longer you wait the harder it is to jump.
Ok, ok, stop thinking, you tell yourself. Balling your sweaty palms into fists you take one breath, then two, three. And despite all of your primal instincts, you jump.
You know that feeling before jumping. It’s nothing shy of terrifying. In most situations in life, our anxiety preceding an event is stronger than our actual fear during the event. The thing is, no matter how many times you climb up on top of the jumping rock, your fear may never lessen. What does change is your resolution: to not waste time being afraid and just jump.
This is my experience with writing. Despite resolving to jump every day, I still grapple with fear. The best way I’ve found to write a book is to trick myself into doing it. If I were to consider an idea for A Book, and then consider how I might start this Book, paralysis ensues. I can’t write a book! Do you know how many pages there are? I don’t have a big enough vocabulary to fill even one page. And character development? How will I ever know what my characters’ favorite ice cream flavors were when they were six?
This is when Trickery comes in. Like a gypsy, clanging with bangles and redolent of lemon drops, Trickery will place a hand on my shoulder and bend around to look me in the eye.
“Precious, fearful thing, what seems to be the problem?” she’ll purr.
“I can’t write a book. I’m an imposter! No one will read it! Even worse, my parents will tell me it’s fantastic, thereby reducing my self-esteem because they have to say that!”
“Tut, tut,” Trickery will say, her eyes round, “that sounds like quite the predicament.” We’ll sit in silence a moment, me, feeling the erosion of my hopes and dreams, Trickery, whistling to herself.
“You know,” she’ll say, “you could just start with a word.” I’ll look at her, blinking.
“Yes. A word.” She’ll clear her throat, pulling her shawl tighter. “You know, this necklace,” she’ll pick one from the multiple strands hanging around her neck, the bright beads chattering merrily, “started with one bead. If anyone were to look at the bead, they would not see a necklace. But it was made, one bead at a time. Just as a book is made, one word at a time.” I’ll stare at her necklace, thinking. She’ll dig into her bag and pull out a lemon drop.
“So,” I’ll say slowly, “I’ll first think of one word…”
“For goodness sakes, child!” she’ll shriek. “You’re thinking too much! Just start! Start where you are, start with one word, throw it away afterwards, it doesn’t matter!” Leaning in, her nose almost grazing my cheek, she’ll hiss in a low voice. “Start.”
And this is how my day starts. Every day. Listening to Trickery, and starting. Sure, I can write one word. Then two. Then a page. Some days the words flow, other days they come out in a jumble. Either way, as soon as I start, the height of the cliff falls away and I’m airborne. I have more confidence when I start. Because when you’re writing — especially writing like a badass — the outcome really doesn’t matter. The words are there for you, and you alone. One day that might change, but today, they are your companions, your small, fluffy Furbys to direct as you want. Stack them, arrange them, feed them, get to know them. Step by step, word by word, Furby by Furby, your book will emerge. But the first thing you have to do, always, is start.