My first attempt at writing a non fiction book is still, to this day unfinished. It's ironic because it was a book about motivation - and how to overcome obstacles to the creative process.
Of course many of the ideas the book was going to explore I have used in the 30 or so books I've written since - but I find it odd that my first book was basically on a back-burner for about a decade while I struggled to find time to write it.
I read the other day that procrastination is not really based on a fear of accomplishment, but on a fear of beginning. And not just beginning in the sense of starting out, making notes and thinking - but really starting, as in being involved in creating.
That resonated with me because I realized that's why I never got around to writing that first book. All the time I wasn't starting and being involved in the book, I had no reason to pursue its completion.
Of course, for years I believed the book should be written. I even conned myself into believing I was, in some sense, writing it because it occupied my mind so often. But clearly the more I thought about the book, the less I wrote.
As I've said often - since - thinking is not writing. Especially thinking about writing is definitely not writing! But thinking about writing is a trap that many would-be writers fall into - a pit of self doubt and delusion that requires endless self debate with no real constructive purpose.
After all, when you're in a pit, you need to construct a ladder, not just think about methods of freeing yourself!
I guess that's one of the reasons why I developed the Easy Way to Write philosophy. That is, when you write, don't think. Don't analyze what you're doing because it doesn't achieve anything useful. It just slows you down.
Each moment you stop to stare into space or formulate a new thought is time away from the task. And as comforting or inspiring as those thinking moments might be, they're largely self indulgent and irrelevant to the task at hand.
Because no amount of thinking and planning helps to get the job done - unless you're actively involved in the doing.
Yes - if you get stuck, take time out to break down your project into chunks - minutely if necessary. Tiny pieces, if that's what you need to do - and in writing. But then get back to tackling those pieces - quickly and with purpose. Don't stop to think for too long.
Serial procrastination is also a product of perfectionism - the inability to create unless everything goes smoothly and is notably brilliant from start to finish.
But any artist will tell you that the illusion of perfection is just that - an illusion, created by years of trial and error and constant activity.
Leonardo kept the canvas of the Mona Lisa with him all his life. To him, it was never finished. He added to it, changed it over and over, forever infusing it with the perfection it's now famous for.
But with his other works, he was on the clock. He finished them because there was an end date - a time beyond which he wasn't going to get paid. The deadline necessitated the work's completion.
And so it is with you, my friend. You must work on a project to its completion but have the courage to say it's done now. It may not be perfect but it's time to move on. This is a skill in itself that can take years to learn - but one that all artists must contend with and accept.
The fact is the more importance you attach to a project, the harder it will be to begin it. And this is something you don't want to feed or escalate. Because the greater the challenge in your mind, the more excuses you can find not to start.
You'll never really be ready...
... and that's the best place to begin. You learn by doing, not by preparing but by being involved.
Nowadays, when I finish projects, I often look back and can't really fathom where all that effort and inspiration came from. It's like the finished product was created by someone else - someone with a skill base and motivational standpoint separate from my own.
To me, I'm still the guy who couldn't get his first book written!
I think this is the way it works.
You don't really go from a wannabe to a success, as if they're two different entities. You're still both. It's just that one - the doer - fills more of your time than previously.
All you have to know is that harnessing success is about doing, being active, taking steps - no matter how small - on a consistent basis.
Don't beat yourself up about your faults.
Be aware of your faults, see them as positives. Use your issues as motivation. Embrace your foibles. Accept your limitations. Gather strength from your insecurities - everyone has them, even the great and good.
But most of all, take action.
Write. Be involved in your writing.
We all make mistakes. It's part of the creative process.
As someone famous once said, it's why there's an eraser on the end of a pencil - and a backspace/delete on a keyboard for that matter.
Don't be afraid to begin. You can always delete what you've done and start again. I do that all the time these days - it's part of the process.
See the ability to edit, clean up, delete and polish as your best friend. The part of your nature that helps you the most. But remember that without activity, there's nothing to perfect.
Things don't create themselves. We do.
Intention is only useful when there's matter to rearrange. And no amount of thought changes anything until activity kicks in.
As Nike says, just do it!
And as Rob says:
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.”