Breathing and Writing: An Exercise for Opening Lines

Here’s a short exercise in getting started.  I plan to practice this each time I’m facing a blank page.  For the first few minutes, simply inhale and exhale.  Find a rhythm, and say something in your head to match the intake and exhale.  I find that for me, I can breathe in two syllables and exhale two syllables.  This makes for short opening sentences, the kind that don’t say enough.

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And that is the point.  The opening sentence should never say it all.  That is for the rest of the story.

Today when I did this, I came up with this simple statement:

I moved away.

(And would you believe a whole story is waiting under the surface of that opening line?)

I moved away.  And soon afterwards, I began to see the people and the places I left behind with sharp clarity, with tender appreciation.  I moved away, and when I did, I became open enough to invite love in.  So now there are three of us to walk together in this new place, which contains echoes and images from my past.  Like the willow tree at the edge of the lake on Trosper road and the boat dock across the water that could have been the same boat dock I floated past in my youth, sprawled out on a black rubber inner tube.

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