American humorist James Thurber had this sound advice to offer the would-be writer: ‘Don’t get it right, just get it written.’
Until you get at least something down on the page or screen, your dreamed-of magnum opus will remain strictly imaginary. Even the broadest outline of a plot or structure for your subject, the roughest sketch of a scene or character or situation, the loosest development of an argument or theme, affords you something to build on.
Once you have started to give some kind of written form to your ideas or feelings or impressions, you can see them in the cold light of day. As you then react to them, your dialogue with yourself and your subject begins. And now that you are confronting yourself in written form, you will find that your ideas start to clarify, to evolve and grow. They may grow untidily and in unknowable directions for a while, but at least the seed has sprouted; the tree is alive.
For most writers, the creative process is a seemingly endless series of writes and revisions and rewrites, each version a little more polished than the last, a little closer to the essence of whatever it is that the writer wishes to say.
Even if initially you manage only to write your opening sentence, do not despair; you are in august company. The great 17th-century French dramatist Molière confessed: ‘I always do the first line well, but I have trouble doing the others.’ However much difficulty Molière may have faced in getting beyond his good starts, he certainly triumphed in the end. And so can you, for a fine first line is a seed that has sprouted.
Writing is both an art and a craft – and as such is only mastered with patience and practice – but the essential thing is to keep on writing something – anything – and then, usually, to keep on reading and rewriting what you have written. Over and over and over again.