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Taking note: Finding the words

Cecilia Brown, Journal city editor, columnist

It was a crisp, sunny morning. Dew still lingered upon the grass. A light covering of fog could be seen on a few windows, evidence of the coming autumn. Birds called out in the distance. A chipmunk darted around the lawn, seemingly searching for something.

It was tempting to linger outside, but a writing project that I hadn’t started yet was weighing on my mind.

I reluctantly returned indoors and stared down at my keyboard.

Upon close inspection, it was evident which keys had been used the most. Those keys were marked by smooth, shiny fingertip-shaped depressions in the center, in contrast to the matte look of the keys used more rarely.

I looked back up at the glowing computer monitor.

The little text document open on the screen was a brilliant expanse of white. Still an “untitled document,” a story untold.

The inactive cursor bar was flashing, waiting for me to come up with some words to keep it busy.

I considered various opening lines for a moment, debating the merits of this mental writing rehearsal.

A bit of brainstorming or creating an outline can be helpful.

But nothing compares to just putting some words down on a page.

Even if it’s not that great at first.

Even if it’s filled with clumsy sentences or clunky paragraphs.

Even if the presentation of the topic needs some work.

Because once we’ve put some words upon that page, we’ve already overcome a significant obstacle by just starting to write.

Writing that first draft can require some courage.

And it can take courage to accept that the first draft probably won’t be perfect.

But the first draft doesn’t need to be perfect.

It’s a starting point.

It’s something to build upon and revise.

It’s a way of organizing thoughts.

It’s a way of thinking about a subject more deeply.

It’s about what can evolve from those first few sentences or paragraphs.

It’s about learning from the process.

Because once you’ve put some of your thoughts on a page, you might see them in a new light.

You might find new ideas, connections or questions that hadn’t occurred to you.

You can transform that blank page into something of value and meaning.

And you might rewrite, rearrange and delete countless times on that journey.

But that’s part of the process.

So don’t let that blank page intimidate you.

Just start writing.

Accept that it may not be perfect right away.

Don’t be scared to revise.

Take a break and return to it with fresh eyes if you get stuck.

Find opportunities to learn from the process.

Have faith in yourself.

It’s worth it in the end.

Because when you put your thoughts into writing, you just might discover that you know more than you think.

You might learn something new.

You might teach others something through your writing.

Because when you write, you’re facilitating the exchange and development of ideas, information and stories.

And this means filling in that blank page can have a real impact. Especially if you use it to gain — and share — a more compassionate and nuanced understanding of ourselves, others and the world as a whole.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cecilia Brown is city editor at The Mining Journal. She lives in Marquette and can be found hiking if the weather’s nice, or curled up with a book if not. Contact her at cbrown@miningjournal.net.

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