When you don’t know where to start

Not every lead introduces itself to the writer. Some do. There have been times I’m in the middle of an interview, or research, and the lead jumps out at me in a spangly pantsuit and yells “Start your article with me! I’m perfect for you!” And it is.

It’s nice when that happens. More often though, I must begin to write in the middle, or the “just after the beginning” beginning, in order to begin anytime at all.

That is called starting anywhere. And the wonderful thing about that is, as soon as you start anywhere, anywhere becomes a place to start. And you might just write your way into what feels like the greatest beginning for this piece at any point. You probably will. It’s like driving down a new, curvy road in the summer, not knowing what great thing you will find around the next bend. You write your way right back to the beginning.

Sometimes you will discover your lead yourself (that’s the best thing) and sometimes it is your editor who will point it out to you after you think you are all done (still a great thing, just not nearly as fun as finding it yourself). “Oh,” they will say, “You buried your lead.” It’s like someone saying, “Oh, your shirt is on backwards,” or, “Oh, did you know that you’ve dribbled coffee down your white sweater again?”

It’s so obvious that your lead was right there all along, three paragraphs down. Just as obvious as the fact that you are not a person who should wear each white shirt more than once.



1 thought on “When you don’t know where to start”

  1. Karen – I just got around to reading this – I’m ploughing through a book of stories and often I ponder for days over where to begin. I hope not to be caught “with my shirt on backwards.”

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