For some of us the notion of sitting at a keyboard or with pad and paper, pecking out or scribbling out a tale is the most daunting, ominous, overwhelming task imaginable. I am here to tell you that is poppycock. Everything you ever needed to know to do it and do it well you knew before you were ten, and much of it was learned in kindergarten. Don’t believe me? We’re going to begin at the beginning and I’m going to show you.
In kindergarten we learned many many things and over the next few months we’re going to pull that treasure trove of knowledge out and plumb the depths of memory for the things that we have known all along and forgot how to apply. Starting here and now today, with “A”.
Many of us knew the alphabet before kindergarten, and those who didn’t, had a wall of magic symbols displayed when we walked into the room each day to help us on the journey to this knowledge. “A” is significant in many ways, but for today it is the most important letter because it signifies the beginning…the only place to start. Julie Andrews spoke to the musical beginnings of do, re, mi….and compared them to A, B, C. Whether by rote memory or impassioned effort we learned that you always begin the alphabet at A and end at Z. Writing is no different. You begin at the beginning, be it an idea, an image, or a dream. Without the beginning the tale is lost and wandering as we all would be if we had to recite the alphabet from M out…it is a far more difficult task. Not impossible, but much more complicated and who needs that?
In kindergarten we learned another important “A”, accountability. Sharing, shame, homework, or shoe tying we became responsible for our spot on the rug and the things we were tasked with. We became the center of a microcosm where the world revolved around us, but we in turn revolved around others and had influence. We could bring joy or tears and at the end of it all when it was time to take out our towel and nap, we were responsible for doing it right then too. Little things became big things, but not all at once, instead step by step as we learned cause and effect of our actions or inactions. The unquestioned affection of our parents took a backseat for a time as we learned to play with others and exist in a world where our parents weren’t. These are all important beginnings and all translate into writing.
Accountability, Action, Affection, and the Alphabet. These four “A” words have tremendous impact on how we are as storytellers. Our action or lack of action will be the driving force behind the tale we tell or keep to ourselves and the accountability to finish the task will in fact determine if the tale, though perhaps written, ever sees the light of day. Affection for our work and the work of others as we learn that writing is a solo act in a community of others committing solo acts will influence the scope of our voice in the larger dynamic. Will we have a best seller? Will our story teach, or deter? What it will be is determined by the affection we have to grow it to its potential beyond the begining, but just like “A” is where the alphabet starts, so must we.
So, with our beginning and the big “A” words, pick up your pencil and begin. Any beginning is a good beginning. Any beginning is a place to jump into the magical symbols and create something bigger than ourselves. Will the world revolve around you when you are through? If you never begin the answer is a resounding “no”. But, if you begin, and remember that we crawl before we walk before we run, the cheer of the crowd and the tape across the finish line is one step closer than if you never do. It’s up to you. Find “A”.