16.12.08

The first words are the hardest

Which is why a headline like "I'm rewriting the same paragraph over and over and over!" is guaranteed to get me to click on it.

I figured Cary Tennis's advice (or anyone's, really) would run along the lines of "Just write it, dammit!" But I didn't expect him to approach it this way:
The rule I have made for myself [because he's on post-operative painkillers] is that I cannot go back and fix, or rearrange, or rewrite what I have done. I realized, on the first day of this experiment, when I absolutely lacked the mental concentration to do that kind of rearranging, that I would have to give it up. Thus I was forced to write this new way.

[...] This disability is forcing me to simply keep writing and moving forward.

Of course I fear that I will not be brilliant enough. This fear will have to wait. I cannot hide from it.
He also says:
In the case of writing and rewriting a paragraph 20 times or 50 times, we may fear the plainness and simplicity of what is in our minds; we may fear that unless we unleash a dazzling fusillade of verbal inventiveness, the reader will turn away in boredom and disgust. So we keep tinkering, trying to perfect the bomb.
I've often said I'm a highly inefficient writer (in terms of word count per day, which often translates into income per day) because I spend all this time "tinkering, trying to perfect the bomb", as Tennis puts it. The last few weeks, I've been plugging away at the Lonely Planet assignment, trying to write with "colour and flair" while "telling it like it is" (their mantra, don't you know). Which means I get stuck rewriting the same sentence over and over --- don't even get me started on paragraphs --- and the opening words to any new section are the hardest.

Of course, even harder than writing a good opening, is when you write one and then realise that there's no way you can use it in the book. For instance, this is an outtake for my opening to the history of Hue:
The emperors loved it, so the French sacked it. The North Vietnamese coveted it and stole it; the South Vietnamese and Americans wanted (and took) it back. The Communist government didn't really want to have anything to do with it --- but then the tourists started turning up in droves.
Copyright ME --- just because I'm not giving these lines to Lonely Planet doesn't mean anyone can steal them.

I know that I need to "simply keep writing and moving forward", but I don't know that I can. I guess sheer desperation will kick in at some point, as my non-negotiable deadline looms.

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