“The only thing harder than writing is starting to write.” Susan Shaughnessy in Walking on Alligators
No matter how long you’ve been writing, you’ll find that the toughest part is always getting started.
Getting started means putting yourself in the mood to write, which is not an easy if you’re tempted by other interesting or less painful things.
Then when you get into the mood, you have to show up at the page. Whether you’re starting a new piece of continuing an existing piece, it takes a great amount of mental strength and courage to just show up at the page.
After you’ve turned up at the page, you have to start writing. That requires more strength and courage. But managing to start writing doesn’t mean that you have won the battle.
Two things can happen when you start writing. The writing goes well and you take off and the words pull you along. Lucky you!
More often than not, after putting down a few paragraphs you feel that your words and sentences seem blunt and don’t make any sense. You wonder if there’s any good in continuing. After all, you’re going to write more terrible sentences. So, why bother?
Even if you ignore that feeling and continue, every word you put down is like pulling two bags of cement behind your back with one hand.
This is the part where most writers throw in the towel, thinking that their lack of progress is due to their incapability. They fail to realise that even successful published writers face the same problem. What sets the latter apart is they are experienced enough to know that once they get started, everything will be alright.
It’s just like getting up in the morning. You find sleep overcoming you. You force yourself to wake up, but after you do, there’s some sleep in your eyes. When you brush your teeth, more sleep disappears. Then when you take your bath, you have already conquered sleep. Then when you dress up and leave for work, sleep has totally disappeared.
The same applies to writing. All you need to do is to start no matter what and continue until your ‘writing engine’ gets sufficiently warmed up and moves along smoothly.
If you’re having trouble starting writing, check out these quotes and draw some strength from them. You’ll have the consolation that you’re not alone in your difficulty.
“The hard part is the beginning. I have to begin all over every day. I’d rather do almost anything than go into my study. The door is so tall and dark; it looms. The whole room smells like a carpenter’s shop because of the wooden bookcases. Ordinarily it’s a pleasant smell but mornings, it makes me feel sick. I have to walk in as if by accident, with my mind on something else. Otherwise I’d never make it.” Anne Tyler
Accept that you have to begin all over every time you sit down to write. Just because your writing goes well today it doesn’t mean it will tomorrow. You’ll have to make a fresh start every day. Accept that as an important part of your writing life.
“It isn’t working that’s hard, it’s getting ready to work. It isn’t being up we all dislike in the morning, it’s getting up. Once I get started at almost any job, I’m usually happy. I can plug away at any dull job for hours and get some satisfaction from doing it. The trouble is that sometimes I put off doing that job for months because it’s so tough to get started.
I think perhaps there is some complex thing going on in our brains that keeps us from getting started. No matter how often we do something, we always forget how long it took us to do it the last time and how hard it was. Even though we forget in our conscious mind, there is some subconscious part of our brain that remembers. This is what keeps us from getting at things. We may not know, but our subconscious knows the job is going to be harder than we think. It tries to keep us from rushing into it in a hurry.”
Andy Rooney, American Television and Radio Writer
So, the subconscious keeps a record of past difficulty and reminds us of the pain. Can we make it remember how we successfully completed our past project just because we get started? Yes, we can. When was the last time you successfully completed a writing task. Play that movie in your mind and keep playing it every day. When thoughts of pain or difficulty pop up, switch to the ‘success movie’.
While the worriers are worrying, the planners are planning and the accountants are figuring out why we can’t afford it, I’m busy getting started.
The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.
If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.
The ability to start out upon your own impulse is
fundamental to the gift of keeping going upon your own
terms. . . . Getting started, keeping going, getting started
again in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm.
“There are two types of pain you will go through in life: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces and regret weighs tons.” -Jim Rohn
Agreed. The pain of discipline is much easier to bear than the pain of regret of not starting and finishing a piece of writing.
That’s why many fail – because they don’t get started-they don’t go. They don’t overcome inertia. They don’t begin.”
W Clement Stone
The First Step to Getting Anywhere is Deciding You’re Not Willing to Stay Where You Are
Dave Sweeney, Fitness Coach
“The best lesson I learned was to just do it. It doesn’t matter what it is, or how hard it might seem, as the ancient Greek, Plato, said, ’The beginning is the most important part of any work.’
A journey of a thousand miles starts with that first step. If you look ahead to the end, and all the weary miles between, with all the dangers you might face, you might never take that first step.
So take the first step. There will be many challenges. You might get knocked back – but in the end, you will make it.”
Richard Branson, Screw It, Just Do it
So, what’s the fastest way to do something you don’t really feel like doing?
JUST START and KEEP GOING!
Don’t worry about where it’s going. Just keep going.