Yes, yes, I’ve used this post title before. It’s still the best advice I can offer anyone at the onset of a big project. Of an abstractly, potentially big project.
Here’s a line that I think I found in You’ve Got a Book in You, by Elizabeth Sims: “A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.”
The first thing you have to do: learn how to start.
I am always baffled by famous writers who claim they do not write every day. I don’t always “write,” I guess. (Okay, I always write in my journal, but not always on my current project.) But when I’m swept up in a project, I can’t seem to help thinking around it, reading around it, even scribbling around it. It’s as if someone has dumped a truckload of bricks on my driveway. I can’t get anywhere else without going past the pile of bricks.
A friend told me the other day that she has to work herself up into a kind of passionate fit before she can write. I do that, too, sometimes. I find, however, that a passionate fit is just a passionate fit (soothed by TV or Spider Solitaire or a heavy-carb lunch) unless I pick up my pen and start writing.
If you want to write something, the first thing you might do is begin making a space for it. Write a little bit–even if it’s not “productive,” not “on task.” Just write. Write for 15 minutes. If 15 minutes sounds impossible (that would be anxiety, also known as fear), try 5 minutes. Even if you’re highly anxious, you can write for 5 minutes.
Let’s imagine that your project really is a truckload of bricks dumped on your driveway. Sure, you can work steadily for several days until the bricks are off your driveway and in the garden where you’re making a path. But you can also move them one or two bricks at a time, every time you see them.
Write for a few minutes. Then, try it again later today or tomorrow. Make an appointment with your passion. Show up (on time, with a good attitude!). Repeat. Don’t be surprised when you look at the clock and see that a half hour (or an hour or four hours) has slipped by.
Get proficient at starting your work, and the next time that passionate fit overtakes you, you’ll have a pen, paper, and a little block of time waiting for it.