Prior Decisions

As a teacher I often think of Thoreau’s dictum. Much of the trouble that writers get into is caused by cart-before-the-horse disease. Writers fixate on the successful final product, forgetting that they will only create that product if they start at the beginning and get the process right. I’ve found that most writers embarking on a memoir can already picture the jacket of the book. They can also see the narrative line of their story in its seamless chronology. Their only problem is how to find an agent and get the book published. They have thought of everything except how to write the book: all the prior decisions—matters of shape, content, tone, and attitude.

William Zinsser