The Heart at the Start
Surveys suggest that 83% of North Americans want to write a book. A worthy ambition. However, a lot of blank space whitens the pages between “want to” and “done so.” Most people not only don’t finish their first chapter, they never even pen the first word. They just don’t have the heart to start.
As Launch Month for Destiny at Dolphin Bay approaches, my thoughts often return to the (Chilean) summer of 1987 when I scribbled the original scenes of what would eventually turn into a finished first draft in October 1991. I could now write an entire book on What I Wish I’d Known Back Then 😉.
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” –Agatha Christie
For starters, I wish I’d realized how young and energetic I was then. If only I’d known this writing life wasn’t a sprint but a marathon, and that I could never sustain my work-till-two-in-the-morning pace forever without missing a beat.
And I wish I’d foreseen how the decades would fly by… and how important it was to start with my fingers glued to the keyboard and stick by the stuff through the grind…or the flow.
Famous First Words
Making a good start is more than half the work of just about anything. Few things hold more significance for the success of an endeavor—a career, a journey, a life—than beginning well.
The first day out predicts the trajectory of a trip, it seems. And years ago, if your wakening moments didn’t go favorably, your mother would ask if you got up on the wrong side of the bed. Those early hours—and opening words—frequently tell all.
“The last line you write is the first line.” –Rachel Haucke, The Fifth Avenue Story Society
Ms. Haucke’s story character expresses more or less what I do when I finish a book draft: Start all over again. I begin another book, of course, but I also go over the one I’ve just completed countless times. And still, even 30 years later (when I almost have it memorized), I’ll discover improvements needing to be made.
That first line or paragraph or chapter, I write over and over and over again. Because how it starts pretty much indicates how the rest of the book will go. Perhaps, as in each of our lives, I can’t clearly understand the beginning or trace the theme of the story until I’ve written the ending.
One day, we’ll see our stories mapped out from the day we were born–or before (in the prologue 😉). We’ll comprehend how every person played a part and every scene contributed to the eventual climax and perfect resolution. The crafting and re-crafting as we make those many small choices from chapter to chapter refine and fine-tune the meaning of the tale of our lives.
Droplet Gift #33:
I will take up my pen and write for the King.
“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the King; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” –Ps. 45:1, NIV
That’s why we writers often have to go back to the beginning, to find the heart at the start. For fun today, I’m sharing some of the first lines I’ve created for the stories God has infused into my lifeblood:
Desert Island Diaries
“Lucky that Martinet Martin didn’t assign me to write about what I liked in Chile, since I could list that on one hand so far. But the first thing I learned here is that nothing’s ever as good as you hope or quite as bad as you fear.” —Destiny at Dolphin Bay
“As soon as I glimpsed Nicolás Serrano on the soccer field, I knew I was in danger.” —Pursuit of the Pudú Deer
“Everything I’d assumed about the godforsaken island of Cocotúe was wrong.” —Legacy of the Linnebrink Light
First Mate’s Log
“The conversation was going so well, until Cecilia Cárdenas bombed into the kitchen and ruined everything.” —The Seahorse Patrol
“I was bursting to announce the secret of my engagement to the world, but the man I planned to marry shouldn’t be the last to find out.” —The Seagull Operation
“It wasn’t the most promising day of my career. In the middle of my closing prayer at the impromptu morning service in this isolated hamlet in southern Chile, I had the feeling that, as a missionary, I was pretty much a flop.” —The Sea-Silk Banner
Swan Islands Secrets
“His height arrested my attention first, of course.” —Swan Pose
“I wish I could claim I accepted that date with Joaquín as a do-good ploy, but saving Tabitha Sánchez from an evil man’s clutches was no more a half-baked idea I cooked up along the road.” —Swan Dive
“From beneath a fringe of mink lashes, I gave the dark, robust young man behind the pulpit a second look. And then a third.” —Swan Song
Winds of Andalucía
“When Felipe Bello asked me to marry him, what else could I do but say yes?” —Pearl of Great Price
(Spoiler alert) “Breaking up with Felipe affected me like release from the grip of a tornado. A split second of relief, then a freefall into shock…” —Anchor of Last Hope
The End of the Beginning
Okay, some are pretty good. Some need a lot more work—maybe the first line hasn’t really been written yet. Anyone want to weigh in? Or rewrite one or two with more soul…more mystique? Give them a better start out the gate?
Which is my favorite? Seriously, whatever one I’m working on at the time 😊.
But one thing’s for certain, whatever it is God has called you to do, it’s past time to start. If you get ready…get set… and then wait for that perfect moment, you’ll never do anything. You’ll come to the end without ever beginning.
“Whatever you are meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” –Doris Lessing
Whatever gifts and resources, time and talents, we’ve been given, God wants us to use them for His purpose and glory. Find the heart to start, my friend. Yes, sometimes it feels overwhelming. I confess plenty of days I’d rather run and hide, watch TV or simply read a book, instead of discipline myself to write His messages. But when God has made me a writer and given me the health and creativity, I can’t just stay in my comfortable armchair, dreaming about stories.
We practice and train, of course. We draw on the encouragement of our mentors and cheerleaders. And we rest, if we must, and get replenished and recharged by whatever nourishes our minds and spirits.
But start. May your heart be stirred by a noble theme to serve the King’s glorious story from first to last.
Lord, don’t take me home… until I’ve poured out heart and soul to write Your story for my life.
Wowza. Did you pen this for me? Because as the Chilean saying goes, “No me lo mandó a decir con nadie.” That’s how I feel. But I didn’t sense a finger-pointing. And I know you didn’t direct it at me, but nevertheless, I felt touched—and encouraged by your words. Thank you.
Haha, no, I didn’t write this just for you! I wrote it for me as a writer–and for all of us in every walk of life who have “ganas” to do great things and never get around to it. We need to pace ourselves and lead balanced lives, of course, but the end depends so much on the beginning–as well as on every day in between. God bless you as you write for the King today.
Love all of these lines! Can’t wait for everyone to be able to read Destiny at Dolphin Bay!
I’m glad you liked them–hope to publish them! I’m getting excited about the launch of Destiny at Dolphin Bay, too.