Not just the fresh start

Happy New Year! May 2024 bring you inspiration, time to write, and time to revise.

In December, I participated in an annual poem-a-day challenge. This is my happy place. It is also my anxiety. What if I can’t think of anything to write about? How, or with what, do I start? That concern begins on the first day–even when I come equipped with prompts and a project, an idea for a series. It’s the fear of facing the blank page.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Paul McCartney. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the documentary The Beatles: Get Back, Part 1. The footage includes a lot of bickering, but one moment stands out in my memory. While other musicians are arguing about, probably, everything, Paul is working on a little riff, maybe eight or ten notes. He plays it, then he plays a slightly different version, and again, and again, and again. He keeps playing with it, refining it. He didn’t come up with a genius phrase; he came up with a starting point and kept experimenting with it.

The word that comes to mind is noodle, to noodle around with something. The idea that you don’t have to come up with the right image or line or phrase on your first try. Get something, anything, down on the page or the screen, and then keep playing with it, keep noodling. See? Much less pressure.

If we’re going to revise through multiple drafts anyway, why should the starting point contain so much importance? Instead of the starting point, it’s just a starting point.

Here’s to the start of the year, and to the start of all your writing projects. What tactics do you use to begin?

P.S. Long ago, my friends in New Jersey were appalled when I slipped and said noodles instead of pasta. They ended up calling me Captain Noodle.