…in medias res… By Carol Harblin


More often than we care to admit there are countless moments of hesitation before we actually begin writing.  Why do we hesitate?  It’s as if we have “blank document syndrome” where our words freeze up and we are plagued with anxiety.  Does it help to know we all go through it?  You’re not in it alone.

There is an Ernest Hemingway quote that states, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  His advice is bold and brave.  It sounds so easy, but it’s not that cut and dry.  The blood is there inside of us, but we need that fresh cut to begin that flow of words to bleed out onto the page. 

We have the words inside us and our stories are already written. All we have to do is begin tapping out the words.  We can’t always buy a book on writing prompts because that can get expensive.  Literally begin anywhere.  There is no wrong way to begin.  Nothing is ever written in stone.  If you begin by writing about the sounds around you – wherever you are – that is merely a device to get you to where you wanted to be with your own stories. 

Begin by observing conversation around you.  Is there a dialogue that you can write and continue in your own words?  Do you see and signs or words around you that you can write out that can hook your words out?  Begin with the first verbal cue you hear around you.  Describe it.   Express it. 

Don’t plagiarize, of course, but begin writing out a paragraph from your favorite book.  Type it out, verbatim, and when your words start to emerge then continue your own words – and don’t stop.  When we find our words, we find our rhythm; that is the bleeding that Hemingway was talking about.  Purge it and bleed. Of course you should delete the paragraph you were copying, but as long as you reference it, source it, and put it in quotes, then it is okay.  Plagiarism is NOT okay – ever.

In the movie Finding Forrester, starring Sean Connery, we see a recluse older man who has holed up in his apartment without any sort of human contact.  He lives in the Bronx, a borough in New York City. As the movie develops we find he is an author who has been hurt by his past and he refuses to go out into the world for fear of getting hurt more.  A high school student, Jamal, discovers him, while playing basketball in the court outside the older man’s window.  Their bond is fated and their meeting is serendipitous.  Sean Connery helps the student find his voice, just as the student helps Forrester (Sean Connery) re-emerge into the world again and helps him with his outward voice again. 

In the video below, at about two minutes and thirty-seven seconds in, Mr. Forrester shares with Jamal the “just write” method.

Within the student’s discovery of his written voice Forrester (Connery) teaches him to purge his words without thinking.  When we write we have to allow our hearts to bleed onto the page and not worry or think about anything.  The only thing that is important about a first draft is that there are words and ideas on the page. 

As Connery inspired his student he gave him a piece of his own writing (which the student didn’t realize at the time) and told him to use it until his own words began to emerge onto the page. 

Begin where you are – right now…write now.