As I’ve shared before, I struggle with resistance. Many of the creative things I love to do are also hard for me to do. Sitting down to draw, spinning yarn, or making time to play the piano are all challenging for me. I often have a hard time getting started writing, even though it’s something I’ve longed to do my entire life. But I’ve made great progress and become a more consistent writer by following a key bit of advice.
Go smaller. Often you experience block by taking too big a bite. — Sophy Burnham
Block is the ultimate resistance. It’s an infinite wall, stretching in every direction, that is keeping me from where I want to go. It’s so strong that it seems like nothing can be done to break through. The world’s largest wrecking ball won’t even make a dent in it. How can I ever get through?
The secret is counter intuitive. Stop trying to blast through. That’s like sitting down and saying, “Today, I’ll write a novel.” Even if I could write that many words in one day (I can’t), I couldn’t have that many ideas in one day. The project is too big to think of as a single step. Instead, I have to break it down and do the tiniest, smallest, easiest step I can imagine. Forget the wrecking ball, and get out a nail file. Scratch the surface of the wall with it. Chip away. It sounds crazy and seems futile, but it works. The block, which seems impenetrable, will crumble from the vibrations.
This is how I get some writing done, even when I’m feeling too busy, too tired, or too sick to work. I promise myself I will spend five minutes on my project, whatever it is. Five minutes is nothing. It seems like an inadequate amount of time to accomplish anything. It’s scratching the wall with a nail file. But it works.
Some days, I will only spend five minutes writing. I’ll tweak a sentence, jot down an idea, or just remind myself where I am and what I need to do next, then call it a day. But some days, the wall collapses from that little scratch. I’ll keep writing and forget all about the clock. I’ll make major progress on my project and be glad that I started.
Either way, I go to bed able to say, “I wrote today.” And that’s much better than the alternative.
What are your tricks for getting started?