How to Start

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Twenty eight minutes.

That is all I have.  Twenty eight minutes to distil my thoughts into a blog post.  I’m in the coffee shop and the battery life of my lap-top has imposed this limit on me.

What am I feeling?  Pressure to create.  Where do I start? How do I start?

Sometimes I feel that my writing just flows.  My desktop tells a different story.  It’s a graveyard of half-written posts, abandoned to the scrap heap of history.  The one about learning to slice onions was particularly awful.  Maybe I’ll post it one day, so you can agree.

Getting started is usually the biggest hurdle.  The blank page.  The blinking cursor.  It’s almost mocking me.  Come on – fill me up.  Bring me to life.  How difficult can that possibly be?

My personal best is 47 minutes.  I’ve sat and stared.  Occasionally an idea popped into my head.  No, who’d want to read about that?  Too boring.  Too trite.  Too patronising.  Even I wouldn’t read that.  Back to staring, and waiting.

If only I was as amazing at everything as I am at self-censoring.  Life would be a breeze.

So how do I get started.  Breaking inertia, getting the ball rolling.  Michael Atavar, author of the brilliant How to Be an Artist probably sums it up best:


Pick something, anything to fill the vacuum.  Look at the world around you.  The people, the environment, nature, the sky, the sunlight playing on the water, the feeling you have inside you, the photograph of the old man in the café covering his eyes, the colour of the paint on the wall.  Anything that catches your interest.

Congratulations, you’ve started.  Now do something with it. Write it down, talk about it with someone, draw it, photograph it, video it, write a haiku about it.  The first building block.

Where does this take you?  What happens next, where does your mind draw you?  Find the excitement, open the next door and see what is behind. The rust starts to flake off the mental cog wheels.  Each rotation gets easier.  The rolling stone picks up momentum.  Moss be gone.

Starting something is much easier than not starting something. Not starting is static, frustrating, tedious.

Starting is dynamic, energizing, exciting, creative. It’s not important if you’re trying to write a blog post, get a project moving, find a new job or change the world.  Everything has to start somewhere.

So I pick something.  Twenty eight minutes.  I roll with it.  The wheels turn.  Something else follows.  Suddenly the words are flowing.  I’m riding a train of thought, not exactly sure where it is going.  And then I reach the destination, and I’m pleased.  With 8 minutes still to spare.  Time to start something new….

What are you ready to start?  How long have you been waiting?  How do you get the ball rolling?  What gets you unstuck?  Please leave a comment and let the LOL community know.

Great blogs about starting

Marc Winitz at Black Belt Guide on Making a Breakthrough.

Tess at The Bold Life on Living Without Regret.

Photo Credit: Lord Jim from Flickr Creative Commons

Related posts:

  1. Life's Too Short to be Ordinary
  2. Thinking Big? – Start Acting Big
  3. Find your Focus – The Power of Now
  4. Viktor Frankl – Lessons from a Concentration Camp
  5. Think Big – Four Steps to get unstuck and start living life to the full


  1. Phil
    March 8, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    What amazing things are you planning to start? How do you find inspiration and get started? What are our techniques for overcoming inertia?

  2. March 8, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I think the start is always the most exciting thing about a new project! The problem isn’t usually the start though, it is keeping the momentum once you have started.
    .-= Tom | Build That List´s last blog ..The 4 Reasons People Unsubscribe Mailing Lists =-.

  3. March 8, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Loved this post, Phil. I keep notebook for blog ideas, so I always have several, no need to think about what to write. As far as starting, for whatever reason the first thing that came to mind was that I need to start going to bed in decent time. This will have a ripple effect on so many different other areas. Maybe not very related to what you were talking about here, but that’s just what I need to start doing and I think I will. Today.
    .-= Lana-{Daring Clarity}´s last blog ..Here comes Daring Clarity… =-.

  4. March 9, 2010 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    Phil, I’m so impressed that you can knock out stellar content and great writing in such a short amount of time. Bravo! I’m one of those s-l-o-w writers, but I do love the process so it’s okay. And as to your questions, today I’ve been overcoming inertia by asking myself, “how much is this enriching my life?” I can talk myself out of starting by getting sucked into less meaningful things, so just for today, this question seems to be working. I’m going to practice it this week and write about it next week.
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: The Birthday Edition =-.

  5. Phil
    March 9, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Tom – I know that you have plenty of great projects going on at the moment. It is a good question – how to maintain the momentum. Definitely one for a future post. Thanks! Phil

  6. Phil
    March 9, 2010 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Go for it Lana – sleep is so important to our wellbeing. There is research that recommends 7 hours sleep, exercise 4 times a week and daily meditation for 10 mins as the bedrock for good mental and physical health. Good luck with the extra sleep and enjoy it.


  7. Phil
    March 9, 2010 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Patty – thanks as always. I am not normally this quick. This post was a little experimental – pick a starting point and just flow with it. i enjoyed the process hugely. I love your new practice. Asking about the impact on a rich life of our actions is a great criteria. I’m sure you’ll be more conscious of your actions and much more focused. Enjoy the week! Phil

  8. March 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Love it Phil! I had a smile stretched across my face the entire time I read this post. I too have a graveyard of blog posts that have never run. Sometimes I feel there’s more garbage them gems BUT the point is to start and get some words on the page.

    Whenever I’m in this place, I think of advice from writer Anne Lamott in her book Bird By Bird – she says the way to get started is to write “shitty first drafts.” This is the way all writers get to good second drafts and amazing third drafts.

    Thanks again for the smile Phil! As you can surely see from the comment, there are a lot of us out there that can relate.
    .-= Carly´s last blog ..A Call to Action – Life is Too Short Not to Face Fears =-.

  9. Phil
    March 9, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Carly – appreciate your empathy. I know for me that starting anything can be tricky and it is just making the commitment to take the first action that can get me unstuck.


  10. March 9, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Great post and great advice! Sometimes, while trying to wrangle up an idea or some inspiration, it’s easy to forget that it can be as simple as JUST starting! :-) Thank you.
    .-= Karen Cantwell´s last blog ..Flash Fiction Contest Honorable Mention: "Rachel’s Request" by Laura Sherman =-.

  11. March 9, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Awesome, Phil! I generally do things that interest me so I get absorbed easily in something. If I only think I have to do something, it won’t get done. But if I feel passionate about an idea or a project, I may get obsessive about it. I used to have no problem starting anything but completing something would be a different story. Now, I find I don’t start anything unless I’m committed to finishing or sticking with it. One thing that jumped out at me is the idea of self-censoring. How much to reveal and how much to keep for ourselves — a rich subject worth exploring.

  12. March 9, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Hey Phil,

    Super info. Amazing writing job in a tight time-frame.

    The start is hard for many people. It’s the perfectionism syndrome. People just keep getting ready for the start, kind of dancing around it, but not starting out of fear it may not be perfect.

    I had a boss who just told us to “do it.” It didn’t matter if we had any info or not, she just said it boldly. That taught me to just get to it, to start and worry about where I’m going as I’m going. It’s interesting how when I knew I had to start or else, I started and much insight came to me as I plodded along.

    Some of the best advice I ever got.

    As for my own start, I keep meaning to start yoga again! Need to pick a class and carve time out for it!

    Thx. I’m going to “start” it. Giulietta
    .-= Giulietta the Muse´s last blog ..Three keys to success and happiness! =-.

  13. Phil
    March 10, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the feedback Karen. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in our head and second guessing where to start. I like just throwing anything down to see where it can take us.

  14. Phil
    March 10, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Belinda – thanks for sharing. Self-censoring is a really interesting topic. My inner critic certainly has pretty sharp elbows and high standards. I’m trying to educate it at the moment to let things flow a little more, by just committing and writing. I know that the inner critic or perfectionist can stand in anyone’s way with committing to a difficult project – saying that there is no way we could do it. This helps to confound that by getting some momentum up.

  15. Phil
    March 10, 2010 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Go for it Guilietta! Taking that first step and rolling out the mat or hitting a class is the hardest. Once you get on a roll it becomes habitual and part of your routine. Enjoy getting started.

  16. Amy
    March 10, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    hi phil
    nothing is so frightening as the blank page!!
    i found this really interesting as i have *just* started a new project which is scary, exciting and now there’s no going back…usually i keep quiet about any creative process (fear of failure, no doubt!) but this time i have found it helpful to tell one or two people close to me a few details about the project as it is evolving- a sort of safety net, so they can gently push me along, ask me how things are going, encourage me along the way…speaking about the project somehow makes it “real” and opens avenues to help me think about things in a different way. funny how our internal monologue can change and grow once we verbalise! share, collaborate, exchange ideas, chat over a cup of tea…these are all things i’ll be embracing now i’ve taken the first few steps of my new venture

  17. March 11, 2010 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    By my count, you still owe two more posts for the day :) – hey you have started Phil, that’s a first step. I thought this read well. And thanks for the link back to Black Belt Guide.//Marc
    .-= Marc Winitz´s last blog ..Get to the Edge – Making Performance Breakthroughs =-.

  18. Peter
    March 11, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Loved the post and the comments. So I decided to start writing this comment – I normally do not write comments.
    Keep it up mate!

  19. Phil
    March 11, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your comment sir! I love getting started now. Working on a post about keeping going for next week. Keep up your great work.

  20. Phil
    March 11, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Well that makes me feel very honoured. I am delighted that you took the time to comment. I’ll keep it up if you promise to do the same.


  21. March 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s usually the very small, easy things that I put off staring and just don’t know why. I put them off for some reason, wasting time until I eventually just do it and think ‘what was I actually worried about?’ I also understand what Tom said above though – sometimes when you’re excited to get started, it can be the consistency when you continue that’s hard!
    .-= Ruth – Web Career Girl´s last blog ..Can A Blog Change the World? Blogoversary Post: My Blogging Journey and Where I Plan on Going In Future =-.

  22. Phil
    March 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Ruth! Check out the latest post on keeping going for some ideas on that exact topic. Take care. Phil

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