There’s a stage of starting a new piece of nonfiction that many writers go through called “clearing your throat”. It’s where you dump all the information you feel like you have to say before you actually start telling the story you want to tell. This includes why you’re writing, why you feel like people should listen to you, and how you got to a place where you want to write about it.

I recently removed the first four pages of a story because it was doing exactly that. But I didn’t hit the delete button, just moved it into a separate document. Writing those four pages served a purpose, and I wanted to hang onto them. First, it helped outline why I was writing in the first place. It set up my goals and mentally prepared me to start telling the story. It was my own exploration into what the piece’s purpose would be, as well as determining my own readiness to write it.

Second, there was also a lot of hurt that I needed to air out before I started. A major theme in my story is being a Syrian-American, and the feeling of being othered in both the USA and Syria. In the beginning, I let myself vent and question, and it left me in a state of mind where I can write clearly and focus on crafting the story instead of being blocked by emotions.

Some advice, and I write this for myself first: Give yourself time and space on the page to feel those emotions that inspired you to write in the first place. And then tell your story with all the care and craft contained in that brilliant brain of yours. Your writing and state of mind will thank you for it.