Can I Show You How to Begin?

Can I Show You How to Begin?

Can I show you how to begin?

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.
—Enid Bagnold

Some of us are better sharers than others.

I happen to be a good sharer (with limits on my capacity to share my bed, my toothbrush and a few other personal effects).

Becoming a writer – and then an author – has been ‘the answer to everything’ for me. I want to share it with as many people as I can. It arouses the same impulse in me as witnessing whales breaching and rallying passers-by to ‘Look, can you see them?’

Yet I know that many of us suffer – as TS Eliot’ protagonist in The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock does – of anxiety about where and how to begin.

We second guess ourselves, over-analyse and get stuck in the ‘how’ instead of just throwing ourselves wildly into the relationships and situations we long for.

Plato wrote in The Republic, The beginning is the most important part of the work.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

Of course, without beginning, there is nothing more to speak of. Beginning, therefore, is everything.

Because I know what a big obstacle this is for many beginner writers, I’ve been working on a solution to help you navigate beyond the ‘where and how to begin’ roadblock.

Infographic | How to BeginBelow, you’ll find a map – an infographic – which will ask you to identify whether you’re working on fiction, memoir or self-help and will then guide you to the essential questions you need to tackle as a starting point for each one.

This may be enough to ease you into beginning. Just focus on answering those questions, and let the writing take you where it wants to.

If you find that you need supporting tools or materials to answer these essential questions, I’ve suggested a few different resources you can find on my website to help you. Each writing journey is unique, and depending on the book you’re writing, some tools are more useful than others.

I hope this infographic helps you to begin whatever you’ve been holding off on starting.

Begin, for half the deed is in beginning;
Begin the other half, and you will finish.
—Ausonius

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Zoom In

Zoom In

Holy shit. I need glasses.

Like clockwork, the switch for my blurry vision gene was flicked on the day I turned forty. I’m not sure why I was surprised. I’m the one who, for decades, was prepared for my period every fourth Tuesday at ten o’clock. Some women know the day or week to expect them, but if it got to half past ten, I’d convince myself I was pregnant.

‘It’s ten o’clock Tuesday,’ I’d whisper to Amanda as I passed her desk.

She often replied with a wink.

It was bizarre that my vision of life was becoming a whole lot clearer around the same time that my eyesight turned from crystal to frosted. What I had finally realised was that, as a perfectionist, my outlook was constantly clouded. Clouded by dreams. Such illusions projected an unattainable future, which accidently put my life on hold. I was forever waiting for the day when ‘everything would be sorted’ before taking action to start my ‘proper life.’ ‘That’s when the fun will begin,’ I kept telling myself.  

Every little girl has a grown-up wish.

‘I’m going to be an actress, or a newsreader like Jana Wendt. And by the time I’m thirty, I’ll be married to a handsome prince and we’ll have two or three children.’

My reality was a tad different. I had suffered from Stockholm Syndrome for many years in unfulfilling jobs. I had settled for relationships with emotionally unstable or abusive men, and I had almost certainly missed any chance to have my own children.

Through my delusion, I held on to faith. My gut told me over and over that it would ‘all work out’. Who knows how long I would have kept floundering if I hadn’t received my wake-up call. The shock of my dad’s premature death, when I was thirty-six, shook the madness out of me and ignited my search for meaning. Before this, I was proud to strive for perfection. Proud to put other’s needs before my own. Innocent to the massive consequences.

For the first time, I challenged the fantasy I had accepted as my reality.

I looked closely at the vision that had been hijacked by other people’s agenda’s. My vision. What vision did ‘I’ have for my life? My outlook was inherited. I’d never asked the question.

‘Good girls do what they’re told,’ I’d heard.

Although my focus shifted inwards, my search for purpose expanded. Instead of being paralysed by fear and how the big scary world affected me, I began to explore. I had a poster on the wall, staring at me throughout my university days. A little girl with outstretched arms and the quote, ‘je vue vivre’ (I want to live). The desire was always within me, but I was too scared to put it into action. Now there was no option.

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About Lisa

Lisa Benson is a self-diagnosed recovering perfectionist who skipped motherhood but became a grandmother in her early forties. She currently leads a ‘double life,’ living part-time at her home in Newcastle and the rest of the time on a boat on Sydney Harbour. Her writing travels with her whether she is on land or water. Lisa is currently working on her memoir which reveals how her ritualistic past is worlds away from the spontaneous life she now lives. Lisa’s dream is to help as many people as possible, to discover their soul’s purpose and live the life they were destined to.

Not only did I want to live, I wanted to connect and contribute. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to go on an adventure. I wanted to find my place. My habitual future thinking had stopped me from taking even a tiny step forward. I had to learn to live in the ‘now’ instead of attempting to control months and years ahead. A time not even guaranteed. I zoomed right in, through the tiny hole in a kaleidoscope. As I watched the colours dancing around, life became more lighthearted and I became more playful. More myself. Finally, alive and in the moment. Viewing the world through younger eyes, with older ones.

Writing has played a major role in reaching some of those buried parts of myself. Once it was another old dream that had been dismissed. Like a balloon, I was pulled back by the string, when my natural tendency was to rise and be free. But writing is now a healthy part of my day, as essential as sleeping and breathing.

I’m not using other people’s words when I write. They’re all mine. I have the freedom to use my words with no reaction or response. The intense processing has helped me to zoom in on the truth, smashing through the layers that I thought were there to protect me. My therapy on the page. A tool I have used to reframe so much of my life.

Like how lucky I am to have changed my focus. To have opened my eyes to new possibilities. Otherwise I may have missed him. I finally did marry at forty-three. I never doubted we would find each other, but what I could not have predicted was that my handsome prince would also be a fifty year-old grandfather. Little girls don’t wish for that. But I had adjusted my vision.

The blurriness of life is often what brings the clarity.

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Books Are Like Besties

Books Are Like Besties

I equate the experience of reading a good book to sitting alongside my bestie and listening to her share a story in a raw and relatable way. I’m there in the story with her, her words evoking a variety of uncontained visceral responses.

I’ve been known to snort, laugh and cry in public places as I forget the reality of my surroundings and enter another world. Facial gymnastics are a telltale sign a reader is engrossed, as are involuntary squeaks and squeals. I recall watching one woman curled up in the lounge area of a cruise ship, her shoulders intermittently pumping, her head nodding and her hand straddled across her mouth attempting to silence her amusement. I could tell she was about to erupt – her whole body convulsed just before the raucous laughter exploded. Even funnier was her attempt to read an excerpt while gasping for breath in the build up to the punch line. The exact wording in the book didn’t matter at the time. I’d already connected with and befriended Sally because of her warped sense of humour. I was hooked. I wanted some of what she’d experienced and knew the book she was reading was written by a like-minded soul. Sally’s actions spoke volumes; her physical response went beyond the normal word of mouth recommendation.

Guy Browning’s Never Push When It Says Pull – Small Rules for Little Problems turned out to be an exquisite selection of musings that adeptly used thoughts, feelings and actions to make the reader feel part of the story. In it he weaves the milieu of the conditions of character and setting with words to bring the pages to life in a relatable manner. It’s a fine example of how to hone in on the minutest of details to embellish parts of a whole story.

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About Philippa

Philippa Ross’ desire to eliminate waste of natural human and environmental resources fuels her work as a mentor, writer and speaker. She has integrated personal experiences, professional qualifications and a passion for the environment and quantum physics into roles she defines as a Human Ecologist and Enthusiologist. Her ability to empower people to find their True North and explore the connection between their internal and external worlds has undoubtedly been influenced by her great, great, great grandfather, Sir James Clark Ross, who used the earths magnetic field to navigate his way around both polar regions, discovering the North magnetic pole and the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

In this way, the written word is akin to a melodic arrangement of music where the lyrics and tempo create a harmonious symphony. Both have the power to communicate to the core and stir emotions in the body, which in turn feeds back a unique response, telling its own version of the original story.

Every composition embodies the essence of the creator, so it’s important to write from the heart. Pour your soul onto the page in the same way you would as if you were talking to your best friend – no holds barred and no mask of pretence. Be real and raw. Be YOU. Keep this friend at the forefront of your mind as you journey though the writing process, as it will help create depth for the relationship your reader has with your work. Once immersed in this practice, the intimate kinship will alleviate the pressure to write what you think people want to read and enable your true voice to shine through. You’ll find a deeper connection and a new best friend in yourself; one who can touch a community of like-minded people in a unique way.

It is also important to remember your writing style, just like different musical compositions, won’t appeal to the masses. Keep your ideal reader in mind. Envision that person as your ‘bestie,’ sitting alongside you as you share your story in your own unique way.

I’m sure neither Sally nor I were on Guy Browning’s radar when he wrote his book, but words have the power to bridge personal experiences for a broad spectrum of people. Thoughts, feelings and actions ultimately have a way of uniting us, and as writers we have to remember this when we enter the world within to bring our stories out.

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