How do you start writing

It's not important what you write. It's important that you write.

That's one of the main lessons I learned in high school. In my senior year, Mr. Vellucci, my English teacher emphasized the importance of writing. The best way to get past writer's block and begin writing, was just to begin writing. About what did not matter. Just start writing and edit later.

This thought also occurs in Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". One of the English professor's students gets stumped in a writing class. The professor tells the student to just start writing, but the student says they can't come up with anything to write about. The professor points out the window to a brick building, and then points to an ordinary brick in the building. The professor then tells the student to write about that brick, and, when finished, to write about the brick next to it.

One thing that also came out of Mr Vellucci's class (though it could have been another) was that whenever writing a paper or an essay, the first thing I should do when I begin editing was to simply delete my first paragraph. Regardless of what was in it, deleting that paragraph would be a good idea. Naturally, I was arrogant enough to think I could always write a good first paragraph, but I was wrong. Invariably, my writing was always better when I deleted the first paragraph. The first was was really nothing more than a warm up. In the later paragraphs was when I actually started communicating ideas.

Today, this still comes in to play. At work I produce various proposals, training documents, and presentations. I will often get stuck, however. When I am trying to manage multiple projects and competing deadlines, it is very easy to get stuck trying to do it right and end up with nothing to show for it.

The trick is take one project at a time and just start writing the content for it.

The most powerful force in the universe, besides compound interest, is the power of editing.

Editing gives me the freedom to not worry about doing it right in the first draft. I can produce material that is boring, poorly structured, unoriginal, ugly, confusing, or just wrong. Then I have something to work with. I can fix the problems and improve on it. Once I start on something with the expectation that I will edit it, then it doesn't matter if I get it right at first.

However, once I start on this process, without the pressure of trying to be perfect, then magic starts to happen. Ideas come to me. Words begin to flow. I am free-er to try different things and experiment. The trick is to just get started.

The important thing is not what you write.
The important thing is that you write.

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