One of the scenes in Arthurian legend I love the most is when Arthur first declares peace in a unified Britain.
He’s standing on a hilltop with all of his knights, battered and exhausted, but elated. The battles have been won, the last unruly lords brought into the fold, and the promise is fulfilled: One Land, One King, and Peace.
It’s beautifully described in Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur (which is considered the definitive work) and presented quite well in Boorman’s 1981 classic, Excalibur.
On this hilltop, surrounded by his friends and comrades, Arthur first unveils his plan for Camelot. He says,
Hereafter, so that we remember our bonds, we shall always come together in a circle to hear and tell of deeds good and brave.
I will build a round table where this fellowship shall meet.
And a hall about the table.
And a castle about the hall.
This is important. Because it is the absolute heart of what Camelot is to become.
Arthur doesn’t say, “I’ll build a huge castle with thick stone walls.” Because Camelot isn’t about being afraid of an attack.
The essence of Camelot is equality. There is no head of the table. Only companions gathered to talk like peers.
Because that is encapsulated by the Round Table, it is the very first thing Arthur builds. It sits at the center of the castle, which is literally built AROUND the table.
So Camelot, the castle, the kingdom, is built on the principle of equality, made manifest by the table.
Here’s how this applies to writing.
Arthur builds the table first because it is the most important thing. And, more practically, because it was so big that if they built the hall first, they wouldn’t be able to get the table in there.
But that actually relates to my point about writing.
With any project, whether it’s an article, a book, some type of marketing, there are various pieces of the writing.
Introduction. Body. Conclusion. Supporting paragraphs. And so on.
But in the middle is the heart of it all, the point you need make, the real thing you’re trying to say.
That is your Round Table.
And if you want your writing to flow crisply and cleanly—and, most importantly, to completely support the central idea—write the Round Table first.
Introductions are often the hardest to write. You get so caught up trying to be clever or attention-grabbing, you psyche yourself out. You sit and stare at a blank page, and rather than being able to get right to work, you spend too much time agonizing.
Don’t worry about trying to grab the reader with your introduction. Don’t worry about turning a clever phrase. Don’t worry about ending with a compelling call to action.
Because when you’re worrying, you’re not writing. Thinking about everything you need to include keeps you from including anything, keeps you from starting.
And it absolutely keeps you from finishing it—which is, after all, the most important piece.
Prioritizing anything before putting the most important piece in place often leads to writer’s block; it also usually requires you to rewrite things later to fit them in.
Circling back to our metaphor, focusing on the castle first might require you to knock down a wall or two so you can fit the Round Table.
It increases the time spent and the workload. There’s a lot to be said for effective editing, but there’s no reason to court duplication of effort if you can avoid it.
There’s no benefit in stressing about the seasoning, the sear, and the sizzle before you’ve even defrosted the steak. There’s nothing to eat without the meat, as they say.
Worst of all, other methods keep you from taking action. You sit there and stare at the blank page, wondering how to start.
So. Write the shit that’s already in your head. The actual lesson, the meat of the story. That’s the easy part. Get it on paper and get moving.
As a secondary consideration: In many cases, the introduction will need to create some sort of open-loop or narrative frame for the piece. This will likely be informed and influenced by the actual body of the article.
So, you’ll likely find it much easier to create something once you have everything else on paper.
Rather than figuring out what to reference, and then needing to fulfill that promise later in the piece, you simply reference something you’ve already written.
By writing the intro last, you avoid hesitation and frustration and usually write a stronger piece.
PS – writing is my foremost passion. I love writing. But I also love reading about writing. And writing about writing.
Above all, I love teaching writing.
The ability to write well and tell stories effectively is one of the key factors for success—especially for an online business built around content.
This is one reason we focus on it so heavily in my business coaching group, The Wellspring Society.
That group teaches a score of other things, from marketing to networking, but writing is the core of it all.
If you’re interested in improving your business through writing and storytelling or learning more about the Society in general, check it out here and take a moment to apply.