Why starting is the hardest thing to do
One man’s commitment to write something every day for 90 days.
So everyone has a novel in them right?
That’s the theory. A truism.
I think it is probably true…ish. Everyone has the ability to write a novel — even if you can’t write, you can dictate. If you can’t dictate, there’s probably some software somewhere that will help you get your ideas down, somehow.
It’s what this truism doesn’t say that’s more interesting, though.
Everyone can write a novel. Sure.
But can everyone write a good novel? Doubtful.
Can everyone put in the effort and the time and the sitting in front of a keyboard and just pure, simple, no-nonsense, non-internet browsing, no Snapchat & Instagram-tapping, writing required to churn out 90,000 words? No way.
And even if they can, is that 90,000 words going to be readable? Maybe not.
Even if it’s readable, is it of decent enough quality to be published, read and enjoyed by a bigger audience than just your mother? Quite likely not.
And even if it passes all of those tests, will it pass the biggest test of all? Your own fear. Your own ego, or lack thereof, that makes you question the value of your creation.
It’s a tough business, man. Simple. But tough.
So yeah, everyone can write a novel, but it’s these questions behind that all-too-common phrase that make the process far from achievable for most folks.
I’ve been a writer since I could write.
That’s just what I do.
Some days, I’ll write thousands upon thousands of words. Sometimes some of them are good, and in the right order.
Some days I’ll write fifty or a hundred words. Sometimes one sentence works really well and I’ll use it somewhere.
Most of the time, I write nothing.
Seriously. Most days, nothing.
Okay not nothing — I text, I email, my group chat game is on point— but I don’t write creatively every day.
I’m still a writer, though.
I think most writers would say their creative output is erratic.
Mine most certainly is.
My uncertain creative flow is a product of two traits:
a) A lack of discipline.
b) A lack of focus.
Regarding point a:
I write when I want, and I don’t when I don’t.
I need reasons for everything. What’s the point of doing this? How is writing x number of words now going to lead anywhere, compared to doing it another time?
I give myself excuses — and don’t we all — like, “yeah I could write, or I could go out/watch TV/sleep in/delete as appropriate.”
So more often than not, my excuses allow me to not write.
On point b:
What were you like as a kid?
When I was young, I loved dinosaurs. And video games. And football. And martial arts. And TV. And cartoons. And movies.
I loved stories and poems and facts.
I liked learning, I liked playing, I liked working.
What were you like as a teen?
When I was a teen, I loved music, playing guitar and singing in bands. And girls. And drinking. And smoking. And football. TV was still there. Movies too.
I loved stories and poems and facts.
I liked learning, the only playing I did was music, and I tolerated working.
Now, as an apparent adult, I like things from each of those periods of my life, and more.
I love philosophy, and politics, and art. I love chilling the fuck out and not thinking too much, too.
Oh, and obviously I love writing.
That’s a hell of a lot of stuff to like and love and have passion for.
It’s great actually, even just seeing it as a list right there. And that’s not the complete list. I haven’t included anything about my family or friends (or my new puppy! More on that another day).
But it does make focusing on one thing difficult.
Let’s say I just limit this to writing: so today, do I write about music? TV? Politics? Do I write a story? A poem? A song?
I’m paralysed by choice — an all too common consumerist, first-world ailment, right? — and I just don’t know what to pick to write right now.
So I’ve got a plan.
I’m not going to choose.
I’m just going to do.
Here’s what I’m going to do:
Every day, for the next 90 days, I’m going to write and publish something here on Medium. I’m not going to limit myself by genre or style or form. I’m a firm believer in constraints breeding creativity, but I feel the constraint of having to write something every day will be enough for now. If things take a turn — either toward narrower focus or less stimulation — then I’ll reconsider.
So for the next 90 days: words. It might be parts of my latent novel, maybe a poem, song lyrics, political manifesto, opinions, witterings of a madman, ponderings, ideas or whatever else my mind comes up with.
But I’m just going to do it. No choice in the matter, brain. Hah! Got you. You’re trapped by your own logic, brain.
So yeah, it’s a great feeling to know my next 90 days are going to be mapped out on virtual paper.
Oh, and extra incentive to keep me going? I’m going to do that “donating to a political party I hate” thing, £5 to Ukip any day I miss.
Starting is so goddamn hard, because we make it hard, and everything else makes it hard.
So I’m making it as easy as I can. Starting from today. 90 days of words. Words every day, here on Medium. Who knows what’s going to happen. Something probably will though.