A couple of weeks ago I started writing my book (YO, FINALLY). Like actually words on digital paper. IT’S HAPPENING.
But anyone who has started a big project from scratch, especially a labour of love, knows it never feels like a case of “Just do it.”
It’s big, it’s scary, as soon as it exists it can be critiqued and fall short. In your head your aspirations can be whatever you want them to be and, crucially, they can be safe tucked away all snug and warm in that noggin’ of yours.
Which is why I then STOPPED writing...then started...then flailed about a bit thereafter.
Reality makes aspirations vulnerable, oftentimes frustratingly difficult, sometimes just downright crappy.
So, how do you face this? How do you...just...well...get started (or re-start after falling off the horse)?
Here’s what I’ve been trying:
JUST DO IT.
Yup. There we go. Simple. BLOG OVER.
Yeh...but no…but yeh. Sometimes the most frustrating advice is the most useful and this is one of those cases.
There IS more to say on it but, the nub and thrust (ew) of it is, you just have to sit and goddamn start getting it done in one way or another.
As my future mother-in-law likes to say “Det er så lett og så vanskelig” which basically means “It’s as easy as it is difficult.”
Getting those first few words on the page, the first few pixels on your design, the first few photographs to practice on is as easy as you think it is difficult.
Stop bullshitting yourself, stop making excuses, stop “planning” and procrastinating. You can’t make something you are proud of without just making something to start with.
Sam Maggs puts it pretty concisely for us all:
Just write those first few sentences. Let them sit there. Let them just be and exist. You might hate them, you might physically cringe as you even type them out (like I am doing right now for instance) but you have decided this is important for you to do.
You have decided to make this happen.
You just did.
The start of your project (though it will change and develop...hopefully to something less cringe inducing) now exists in reality.
I hated that first sentence I wrote as much as I adored it. Even if that little trail of words doesn’t make it into the final draft of my book, it’s existence was still a stepping stone to finishing what I know I need to finish.
DO IT BADLY
Or should I say, allow yourself to do it badly. Allow your creation to exist and grow a little before refining it. If you keep going back and deleting that first sentence then it simply won’t exist and you’ll be back to square one.
Just gets words on paper. As many as you can.
Even if the words don’t really make sense yet, you’re not sure where they’re going or goddamn they’re just spelled weird.
This means learning to manage your inner critic. Their time will come trust me but that time ain't now. Now is a time for creating as much as possible so you have something to critique the shit out of later.
This lesson was actually one of the most difficult for me. To try and drop the habit of reading back over my work over and over and over again and instead just letting it lie there.
And let’s face it, the end product will NEVER be as good as want it to be, it may only just barely be good enough. At least now I have thousands of words more to play with than I did at the start.
Every day we prioritise what we do and make habits of the most important stuff. Brushing your teeth, putting on socks, feeding the cats, going to work...we make time for these things because they’re important enough. When your project becomes important enough to you then you MAKE TIME for it.
Sometimes it's not possible to do so but, let’s be real here, a lot of the time you can. It may not be sitting for 5 hours straight and getting a chunk done, it could just be ten minutes here or there. Jotting some things down on the bus to work or getting up 30mins earlier in the morning to mind-vom some little things into existence.
You might find you’re already spending a lot of time thinking about your project. Planning it, worrying about it, finding ways to avoid doing it. If you have time for those things then there’s a good chance you have time to plough on!
SET REALISTIC GOALS
...and, crucially, don’t burn out.
I went from 0 to trying to write 5,000 words a day (on top of all my normal lifey stuff) and it was kicking my butt. By the end of the week I was exhausted and had to give it a break to save my sanity. Since then it became hard to jump back on again.
Truth be told today is the first time I’ve sat and worked on my book in a few days now.
Like getting back into an exercise regime you have to pace yourself to avoid injury. Set achievable, useful goals and start small.
So long as you're chiseling away at things then you know they’re moving forward.
GETTING BACK ON THAT DARNED HORSE
What if you fall off?
Firstly, get over it. Beating yourself is NOT helpful and is wasting time you could spend building up your energy again.
(My new mantra as someone who is addicted to tormenting myself).
Allow yourself a moment to think, as pragmatically as you can, WHY didn’t today or yesterday work out. Maybe you were distracted or in the wrong space or set the wrong time frame or goal. Make a mental note and move on.
Today is a new day...or fuck today, tomorrow could be your new day too. Just choose which one it is and get on with it.
Set yourself a new, maybe smaller, goal and go kick its butt.
Because this time next year you won’t care about all the hundreds of times you slipped up. All you will care about is that you persevered and ended up with something to show for it.
Today I sat and wrote again. I cringed and I doubted and my inner-critic was at times deafeningly loud...but that doesn’t matter. What matters is I’m making something worth, to me, critiquing in the first place.