Four Ways To Make Getting Started Suck Less

Wait, what am I doing again?

1. Start at the same time every day. Or around about the same time. Pick a time that works for you—mornings, evenings, on the train to work, on your lunch break, on the weekends in between hunting your fellow man for sport—and stick to it as best you can. Yes, sometimes things get in the way. Just this morning I had to run errands when I normally start writing, because if I wait until the afternoon all the people who drive like rabid weasels seem to come out and make getting around on the ice that much harder. But I finished the errands as quickly as I could—key cutter, dry cleaner, vet’s office, robot death machine maker—and got back to my desk. Result: I still got my main writing done in the morning, albeit with a later start. Habit is a powerful motivator, so make it work for you.

2. Start before your brain fills up with other junk. If you’re a morning writer, no dawdling while you catch up on last night’s Twitter feed. If you do your word bashing in the evenings, sit your ass down right after supper or after the kids are in bed. No watching that one episode. No reading that one chapter. Just plant your keister in front of the computer before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it.

I use this for morning workouts, too: before bed I lay out my running gear and plan my route. Then when the alarm goes off I can operate on automatic pilot and get out the door before I can think better of it. I’m a kilometer in before I even wake up, and by then I might as well finish the damn run.

3. Start with a low goal. I mentioned this last week, but it bears repeating. Set your initial goal low and move on from there. My 500 word goal has me consistently hitting 1500-2000 words, just because once I get in the flow I don’t want to stop. But it also gives me an exit if I have to stop: meetings attended, appointments kept, food hunted down and stuffed in my trunk. I mean my car trunk, not my steamer trunk. The steamer trunk is strictly for bodies.

4. Start knowing it’s the hardest part. Getting started is like trying to yank a tree stump out of the ground with nothing but a chain and a four wheel drive: there can be a lot of wheel spinning and cursing, but it’s not going to happen otherwise. And then when it finally gives, the hard part is past and you can just drive freely. Except maybe you should remove that stump first. Probably not good for your truck to have it bouncing along behind you like a newlywed’s tin cans.


Getting started sucks, because you have to start from zero every time. But once you’re rolling, it’s so much easier. So get started knowing that it will be the hardest part of the whole damn deal.


2 thoughts on “Four Ways To Make Getting Started Suck Less

  1. You want to write?

    Put down the scotch. Close Facebook. Do what Papa said and write the best damn sentence you can. Then write another one. Keep them short. Make them long. Don’t revise while you’re writing. Revise everything. Try to think of a joke you know and write it as a story. Tell about that one time your aunt almost got arrested. Do writerly exercises. Don’t waste your time with exercises. Read everything. Only read the classics. Only read the moderns. Avoid genre fiction. Write what you know.

    And so on.

    The big things I know: don’t write to get noticed. You won’t be. Don’t write to make money. Not gonna happen. Don’t write to “be like” anyone. Don’t write for a reason. The best reason and the dumbest reason are just reasons.

    You want to write?

    Write because you have to, because you can’t conceive of a life without doing it.

    Otherwise, do yourself and everyone else a favor and quit. You can still tell everyone you’re a writer. You can buy a long-billed hat and a typewriter, carry around a Moleskine and talk about what a genius Flannery O’Connor was. You can tell everyone about your Great American Novel, whatever the hell that is.

    If you’re having problems writing, by all means stop. Nobody will notice. I swear to God. You won’t be missed.

    But if you are going to do it, put everything you have into it. Get as good as you can. Never be satisfied. But don’t have any expectations. They’re just resentments waiting to hatch.

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