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Dial-A-Lede

February 14, 2012

Everyone has a different way of writing.

Some people plan out every aspect of what they’re going to do like they were taught to in school. An outline. A draft. A revision. A polish. Others, like me, are more stream of consciousness writers. We get an idea and start putting words down on paper. We work out our stories and arguments in our heads, trying to make logical connections that advance us from one point to another until we’re finished. When we’re done, we’ll go back, give our work a quick polish and move onto the next thing on our agenda.

I’ve always preferred this method of writing because I’m something of a procrastinator. I need deadlines in order to focus. Tell me I have a month to complete a project and chances are, I’ll put it off until I leave myself the bare minimum of time in order to complete it. I like the pressure. I need the pressure.

I don’t have problems finishing what I start. Instead, I often have problems starting what I’m eventually going to finish. For me, the hardest part of writing anything – an article, a blog post, a screenplay – is coming up with my opening line. I need to find that door, that way into the piece, before I can do anything else. Without a lede line, I’m useless.

Again, this is just a peculiarity of my writing style. I know plenty of other people who can put a placeholder sentence at the start of whatever they’re working on, fill in the rest of the document, and then come back to the beginning and write their introduction. In fact, back at my first real job in Medina, Ohio, my housemate and fellow reporter, Tori, was the master of this technique.

Tori would come back from a meeting or an interview, organize her notes and start putting her story together in sections. Eventually, once she’d written the meat of her piece, she’d pick up the phone, dial my extension, and ask for 1-800-Dial-A-Lede. This was my cue to wander to her desk, read her work and, usually, suggest an opening sentence or two that she could tack onto her otherwise finished story.

It’s been a long time since I thought of my Dial-A-Lede days or about my friend Tori. She’s married with kids now, living in England with her family. We talk on Facebook every once in a while and keep making vague promises to catch up with one another the next time we’re on the same side of the Atlantic.

There’s no real reason Tori came to mind today, except for the fact that I was stuck looking for something to write. I needed a lede – a way into my mind – and somewhere, some old decrepit brain cell lit up with the message “Dial-A-Lede.” I’d liken it to something like Ray Kinsella’s non-specific voice in Field of Dreams – “If you write it, the rest will come.” OK, maybe not that dramatic and certainly, Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones aren’t about to show up and help me find some deep, dark truth about myself, but you get the picture.

Actually, that’s not completely true. I mean, it’s true that Costner and Jones aren’t going to show up here in my living room, but writing this – and everything else I’ve cranked out over the past couple of weeks – has reminded me of an important truth. Writing is about the process, whatever that process may be. It’s about showing up and putting words on paper. It’s about finishing what you start and, more importantly, starting something that you have to finish.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2012 9:19 am

    Good read – you describe the way I write to a T.

    So, today when I composed my piece I gave you a little link love! Good day sir.

  2. katkin permalink*
    February 15, 2012 9:31 am

    Thank you sir. Link love is always much appreciated.

  3. February 15, 2012 3:38 pm

    Good read. I can totally relate as someone just getting into writing (for public consumption that is) with my own blog. I tend to have an outline in my head, but once I start writing the whole thing seems to have a mind of its own and goes off in whatever direction it wants. Sometimes the story ends up coming out totally different than what I imagined, sometimes it’s almost exactly as I thought it would be.

    Thus, sometimes the final product suprises me more than anyone else who might read it.

  4. February 15, 2012 11:14 pm

    Last time I didn’t realize I was signed into wordpress.
    My normal everyday blog is carried out on blogspot and the particular post where I linked you is http://grrouchie.blogspot.com/2012/02/spin-class.html

    sorry for clogging up your comments with a mostly useless second post 🙂

    Back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

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