On Getting Started, or How To Beat Doubt To Death With A Claw Hammer

Leaving Fucking, Austria

….That seems a little harsh.**** (Photo credit: renedrivers)

I didn’t really have any idea what to write today. I got up early to do this post, get it out of the way before I hit the gym double header of yoga and spin class*, and….blank. Nothing. Brain flat line.

Was it the beer I had last night while celebrating the start of Husband’s vacation? Maybe. But I doubt it. This feels internal. The beer is just the first excuse that pops to mind. It could have just as easily been a cold or a poor night’s sleep or an alien invasion**.

Because it wasn’t really not knowing what to write. It was not knowing how to start.

That’s the trickiest part: that goddamned blinking cursor on the empty white page, just sitting there, waiting for you to get your thumb out of your orifice of choice and start. But it’s hard, because…

Because a blank white page is scary as shit for some fucking reason.

That’s not something that ever really passes. I have, at this point, started over two hundred blog posts, dozens of short stories, half a dozen novels, not to mention what must be thousands of letters and emails…and that moment at the beginning, when I first have to make a mark against the blankness, is still the hardest. Not because I don’t know what I’m doing; most of the time I have a pretty good idea where things will go after that, especially with novels. I’ve usually got those plotted within an inch of their life.

Here’s my thought: starting is the worst, because it can’t be taken back. You can’t unstart. You can start again, but that first try, the first mark, is always there, even if it’s only in your mind.

So it becomes scary. A writer boogyman.*** The emptiness of a page or a file, waiting to be filled up. It’s scary to start, and we don’t want to.

And then, being writers, we say ‘fuck it’ and get started anyway. Because, one, being scared of something is not enough of a reason not to do it, and, two, writers write, goddamn it. Everything else is extra.

And once you get past that first word, that first sentence, that first page, it gets easier. You’ve passed the bottleneck and now things can flow. Words come faster. It takes less time than you thought. You hit road blocks, but you know they’re just temporary set backs. Now that you’re going, you don’t know why it was such a big fucking deal to start to begin with. And, before you know it, it’s done.

There. That wasn’t so bad.

*Also known as: get your muscles really relaxed and then try to make them peddle uphill to pounding dance music.
***Fucking lame one, though.
****That picture was the very first thing to come up in the recommended media for this blog post. There was no way I could not use it. I don’t care if it’s relevant. It’s awesome, and that’s enough.

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