2018 is the year you make your art real

Three easy ways to get started

You’ve fantasized about writing a book or recording an album—about building an app or starting a nonprofit. For some reason, you haven’t gotten started.

But with the New Year upon us, you have a special opportunity. You have a fresh well of motivation.

Here’s what you can do to triumph this year, and make sure that a year from now, you’re looking back on 2018 with a sense of accomplishment.

Habits, not resolutions

By now we all know that resolutions don’t work. Just look at the line at the squat rack in any gym on January 2nd. By March 1st it will be hanging out in the corner once again, all vacant and lonely.

That’s because resolutions are vague. Sure, you have the motivation at the beginning of the year to turn them into action. But eventually you get overwhelmed. You get sick or your car breaks down. Your resolutions just add to the cognitive weight bearing down upon you.

Go ahead and have your vague resolution. But translate that resolution into a habit. If you build a strong enough habit, not doing the habit will be harder than doing it.

Build the habit first

Even when we do try to build a habit, we usually bite off more than we can chew. For example, we may try to write a thousand words a day.

This may go just as badly as a vague resolution. Eventually, a day comes when you can’t muster the will to do your habit. Your ambitious plan ends up making you feel bad. This starts a cycle of failure and resentment.

You eventually associate writing with feeling bad about yourself. Naturally, you stop writing.

Remember that building the habit, in itself, is an accomplishment. Scale back your habit to do something ridiculously easy. Instead of a thousand words, write a hundred.

Do daily deliverables

Most people dream too big. They might be doing the writing, but their novel never gets finished. They might be writing songs, but they never record the album.

The vision of what they want to create becomes a big scary woolly mammoth with giant gleaming tusks ready to impale them if they get too close.

That’s because doing the work is much more than just doing the work. Shipping in itself is a skill.

Scale down that dream into a daily deliverable. Record a ten-second song each day and put it on Soundcloud. Publish a 50-word story on Medium each day. Do it all under another name if you have to.

This will help you practice the skill of shipping. You find that woolly mammoth to actually be cuddly and fun and not at all eager to stomp on your head.

Meanwhile, you’re building a creative vocabulary you can mix and match into bigger works. I recently published a book based upon ideas I built up through writing on Medium daily.

The New Year is truly a special opportunity. If 2018 is your year to get started, get started right. By this time next year, imagine how great you’ll feel.

For an extra push, read my new book The Heart to Start. It will give you the motivation and inspiration to make a start that lasts.