Every once in a while I have someone ask me if I ever experience writer’s block. And, the answer is definitely, “Yes!” I think anyone who writes a lot does from time to time. But, I experience it far less often now than when I first started writing probably because I’m more confident with my words and also because, early in my career, I learned a very clever technique for overcoming this fearsome condition. And, I’ll share it with you right here, right now. The introductory sentence of any brochure, article, white paper, or blog post I’m working on is always the last thing that I write before it’s completed.
Well, that big opener is the most important component of any written piece because it needs to draw the reader in. If it’s not compelling or clear, you’ll lose them before they even get to paragraph #2. So, it needs to be good, very good. That’s a lot of pressure when you’re staring at a blank page. Doesn’t it just make sense to move on to the body of what you’re writing first to get the ball rolling, and then circle back around to this most challenging and important part once you’ve fleshed out the rest of it? I often find that the first sentence nearly writes itself once the supporting content has been completed.
I also have found that my original premise or direction of a piece often evolves as I go through the process of writing it. By not having that first sentence at the top, I am free to explore all directions that I can take with my topic or concept. In other words, I’m not locked in to the definition of the kick-off sentence.
This tried and true technique of writing the opening sentence last may also be a good strategy for life itself. Think about it – you can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what your own first sentence or purpose in life is while time continues to slip by. You can also waste years trying to stay aligned with a purpose that doesn’t mesh with a life that has changed over time.
Perhaps many of us are suffering from this type of life block which isn’t all that different from writer’s block. I know that I, at times, have been so focused on my life’s opening sentence that I haven’t taken the time to work on the rest of my story. And, I’ve certainly witnessed many others who have experienced this, as well.
No, I’m not implying that having a purpose or direction is a bad idea. Rather, I’m suggesting that it may be a smarter strategy to have a fluid enough purpose that you can modify it if need be. Why set your life’s most important sentence in stone before your life’s story is fully revealed? Your purpose is likely to change. And, how it changes may be what defines your life.
Whether you believe in a higher power, coincidence, luck, or nothing at all, isn’t it just a good idea to be open to signs, signals, positive change, opportunity, or even just a new way of looking at things? If you’re not willing to budge an inch on how you’ve written your life’s introductory sentence or have become too hung up on figuring out what it’s supposed to be that you’ve never written it at all, you may be missing out on creating the best possible story for your life.
Song of the Day: Every Day I Write the Book, Elvis Costello