Keep it Messy
The first stage of writing a novel, story, essay, song—whatever it is—is messy. Everything is loose ends, emerging pieces that don't make sense yet, a few thoughts in a vague and shifting order. It can be overwhelming. We're tempted to tidy up the mess, force all of the stray, wild pieces to fit into our timeline, outline or storyboard. Don't rush it; keeping the process messy for a while can be essential for the work to develop.
Early on in the process, the idea is as malleable as it will ever be.
Not too far beyond this point your emerging ideas will begin to solidify; the storyline will start to take shape, scenes will be created and put into a sequence to form a beginning, middle and end. But in the early stages all of that is still a mystery. And mystery is where the magic happens. It's a blank canvas, an empty flower vase, a song without lyrics — full of potential and possibility.
Guard the mystery with all the discernment and tenderness and wonder you possibly can. Keep gathering ideas, and keep them from crystallizing too early and becoming something less than what they could be. Give them time to shift and squirm and wiggle around, trying out new shapes before they decide on one.
Maybe one of the greatest things we can offer our work is the space and silence to ruminate inside the mystery for a time, rather than shape it too early in our haste to have it make sense to us. It could be greater than we ourselves might imagine it.