We’ve all heard the wisdom about how the hardest part of a journey is the first step. Well, nothing makes that feel more true than when you sit down to write, and are faced with… nothing. Whether it’s an English essay, college application, or letter to a friend, staring at a blank page can quickly make all motivation wilt. The first sentence of any piece of writing often feels like the hardest, but it doesn’t have to—you just have to know how to break the mental ice and get past the pressure of all the expectations that we put on “firsts” in writing.
The most important thing to realize is that everyone works differently, and getting to know yourself as a writer will allow you to develop your own successful writing patterns. For example, having to come up with an attention-grabbing opener could help you to figure out why what you’re writing about is important. But for many of us, it is during the writing process that those thoughts fully develop, so to have to articulate them right at the very beginning can feel insincere.
So, how can you start to put words on the page? Well, the first sentence that you put on the page does not have to be the first sentence of the paper– in fact, the introduction is usually something that should be written at the end of a paper, once you know why, how, and what you are actually arguing. It makes sense that you wouldn’t draw a map for someplace you’ve never been, so writing an introduction for a paper you haven’t written means that you will have to go back and rewrite things once you’re done. A lot of the fear that we have about committing words to the page is that if they’re not perfect they’ll be there forever—but rewriting, erasing, revising, and reworking sentences IS the writing process. Good writing usually means good revising!
Let’s say that you have a clear idea of two of your main arguments, but not the third. Start writing and developing the two ideas that you have thought through more clearly, which will begin to structure your paper and allow you to think through other ideas as you go. It is okay to work out from the middle, as long as you have some basic idea of the argument that you are working towards. If you need a visual placeholder for the introduction, just mark the space in brackets, or summarize your argument as it stands in a sentence or two. The important thing is to start getting words on the page, so don’t worry about having a perfect first word, first sentence, or first paragraph when you sit down to write! Those “firsts” will come later, and be much stronger for it.
Written by: Editorial Team, My Learning Springboard, Inc.