“Everybody has to start somewhere. You have your whole future ahead of you. Perfection doesn’t happen right away.”
― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
I created this blog over two years ago, but didn’t really write anything until February 2015. When I started the account, I had every intention to write and post regularly, at least a few times a month, and get great feedback. I envisioned becoming a popular blogger with my viewership skyrocketing. In reality, I was not writing at all and was envious of all the people I knew (or didn’t know) who were “actually” writing their blogs, books, and poetry. My vision was to write, but my
schedule didn’t include any time to sit down at the screen. To be honest, my self-censorship precluded me from having anything to say and writing it publicly.
Cut to February 2015. I was speaking with my friend Chava, who was working on an essay for a writing competition. She asked me to review and edit it, which I did, and we reminded ourselves of our goals. One of mine, which had lain dormant for a couple of years, was to stop feeling guilty for not writing and instead, write. I decided, then and there, that every time I experienced self-doubt about writing to instead face the fear and open up a draft and write something. I promised to post something weekly, no matter if it was brilliant or mediocre or poor.
This has been a test of will: taking baby steps in order to start and staying committed to the process.
There is something to be said for getting out of my head with the editorializing and onto the page and simply starting. This proved to be easier said than done. One of my friends is taking a 10-week novel-writing class. The other day he let me read some of the work two of his classmates turned in that he needed to critique. The assignment was to write the first five pages of a novel. I jumped at the chance to read what could be the next Gone Girl or Portnoy’s Complaint. Well, these pages turned out to be unedited pieces without much structure and needed grammatical help, character development, and suspense. My friend and I discussed the pieces, and he told me what was intended, which was quite different from what was on paper. And yet, his classmates turned in something because they had enrolled in the course and said they would. They kept the commitment to write a novel.
And then it hit me: Writing (and starting almost anything) is terribly difficult, and sometimes keeping our word to follow through when it’s tough is just as hard.
It’s so hard to stare at a blank screen and conjure images, dialogue, descriptions, suspense, and characters that the writer (and readers) care about, and maintain a unique voice. I felt humbled. Writers, like my friend or old roommate, who are actually writing and taking classes to further their goals, are doing something so challenging and courageous by putting themselves on the line. My friend challenged me to write the first five pages to my novel (or a short story) and I’m now working on this. When I’m done with it, I’ll post it to the blog.
So for the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking of a story and trying to write something. I have shadows of doubt that creep over my fingers at every keystroke. My idea sounds better in my mind than it does on paper. After a day or two, I changed stories and started again, only to receive the advice to “put on my big girl panties and just write.” Okay, okay.
No matter how difficult it is, it’s important to start.
With this blog or my food business, my “novel” or my coaching practice, I’ve had an idea that has grown from a seedling to something bigger.
Every entrepreneur, athlete, parent, writer, musician, artist, or maker has faced fear, doubt, or worse, and has had to figure out, from the depths of his or her soul, how to pass this uncomfortable feeling to achieve something better.
We have to type word after word, focus on one idea or step at a time, think about the very next thing, in order to make headway. It occurs to me that we’re all creating something out of nothing. It’s all a game of trial and error and taking a long view to know that what we produce today will give us experience for the future. Additionally, efforts we put in today need to be viewed as a commitment to the current process. Someone may have an idea for a beverage company and has to source everything from products to bottle caps, my roommate may have an idea for a song and needs to get the melody just so, or my friend has an idea for a novel and must write five, ten, or two hundred compelling pages. Regardless, all of these people are intimately involved with their ideas and are starting at the line in order to get to the next level. This is like my recent blog about being a Freshman and noticing that each level is a fresh start.
How do people do this? It’s incredible, really, to think about idea formation being put into action. Two years ago, when I was starting this blog, I stared at the blank pages and shut the computer out of fear that I wouldn’t have enough to say. I folded under (self) pressure and didn’t commit. Today, I write anyway. People talk about the “creative process,” which is clearly different for everyone. Some people need to work in the middle of the night while others have 9-5 jobs and must work their craft or passions outside of “work” hours. The time doesn’t really matter, though.
Engaging in the creative process and utilizing our gifts for personal satisfaction or professional gains is what matters most (and the best is when there’s the intersection of both).
Sometimes (quite often), it can be very frustrating because we want the business or sculpture to be a certain way. Likely, when we first start, the process and the products are not up to our personal standards. We want to be good already, but our work just hasn’t caught up. This is where practice and volume comes in — and we have to keep writing, shoot more baskets, or raise more money to defray startup costs. We have to commit to ourselves and keep at it long enough to see something change to our liking. We’re always our own worst critics and we often can’t see when we’ve made progress. But, it’s inevitable that as we keep doing something with discipline and rigor, we will get better. As Ira Glass from This American Life, says, “it’s going to take a while and you have to fight your way through that.”
To learn about Nina and her Coaching practice, please visit Coaching By Nina Rubin.