The art of beginning
This weekend I am celebrating the three month anniversary of my blog. I am celebrating because for the longest time I truly thought my writing would not go beyond a walk to work composition that disintegrated by 9am. I took seriously the well-meaning teacher who once told me I had a talent, but would lose it if I didn’t use it (in that peculiar way of human beings I forgot the praise and memorised the warning).
Until I was so afraid of the words disappearing that to stare at a blank screen would fill me with a kind of terror. Sentences would trail off after the first flash of brilliance gave way to a cursor pulsing on the screen. Alone on a page, the beginnings of ideas languished in different drawers for years.
These sentences now appear all over this blog, sometimes at the heart of a piece, sometimes hidden amongst the other, stronger ideas that have grown up around them. Because 3 months ago I just started to write. To write like I used to as a kid, to write like my mind composes on those walks to work. To write like I had never been told I had talent, and to write like there were far worse things to lose than something you had never used.
Two things triggered my quantum leap. A dear (and exasperated) friend told me to stop reaching for perfect. And a dear (and exasperating) relationship came to an end. Two wake up calls on the week of my 35th birthday.
Stop reaching for perfect – the relationship ended, the blog began. Stop reaching for perfect – the blog began, the relationship ended. In every beginning an ending is written. One of those sentences isolated in a drawer until I typed it out on a WordPress post and offered it to the gods in exchange for the mending of my heart. I started with small truths, my eye on the bigger ones, and I followed the trail of breadcrumbs I’d left for myself all these years without even realising…
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- TS Eliot, Four Quartets
And someone followed after me, then another and another until there are now a merry band of us travelling along together – writers, photographers, painters, philosophers and agitators who in three short months have become my community. All an inspiration, and in your company the story of body, remember is finally starting to emerge.
I had sensed it in images just beyond clear vision for so long, and through writing every day I have come to understand this is how I first meet words. This is why I talk with my hands when I type, why I’m always reaching (but no longer for perfect). I see words, I feel them, and eventually they let me write them. So now when the cursor blinks too long I just shut my eyes and let the image form in my finger tips, or if it’s really stuck I go for a run (this is the best way I’ve found to make the words chase you!).
In the spirit of imagining, for this three month anniversary, I have borrowed from a wonderful post by Wendy at “Live to Write – Write to Live” and had a friend design me a book cover. Something to hold the spirit of the story. Here she is in all her moody glory (the image is as ever courtesy of the incredibly talented Joanne Piechota):
It’s not ready for a book shelf yet, but it looks great on my fridge. And it reminds me that the work has begun. There is a story of a young woman who loves a man who died. There is a story about all the things she tries to remember – to forget. There is a story with the first sentence:
I am watching the coffee stain my fingers as you lay dying in the street.
There is a story I want to tell, and I hope you’ll stay with me in the telling!
And to the one who inspired this story, should you ever stumble across these words, I can honestly say – hand on heart – that I warned you a thousand times:
(I do thank you for the hardest, and most beautiful lessons).
What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
- TS Eliot, Four Quartets