Tell me if this is familiar:
“I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white, and it says, ‘You may have fooled some of the people some of the time, but those days are over, giftless. I’m not your agent, and I’m not your mommy; I’m a white piece of paper. You wanna dance with me?’ and I really, really don’t. I’ll go peaceable-like.”
Aaron Sorkin, Oscar and Emmy-winning screenwriter
The longer I’m in this writing thing, the more I’m agreeing with Mr. Sorkin.
Since New Year’s Day, I’ve written start novel in my super-cool new planner as one of the “top three” tasks of the day as well as the week. Took seven days before I actually did it, and even then I barely got about 800 words done. And that includes the cover page.
I didn’t write again until five days later. Completed another thousand.
In my defense, I have been pretty busy. I’m teaching a course at the university this semester (classes began today)—my first in five years—so I’ve had a lot of prep work to do. This on top of preparing to launch a new novel, taking two online courses to help boost my business, and helping my husband get our house ready to sell.
It wasn’t hard to keep deferring it to the next day, however. And that’s what bugged me. Because two voices in my head competed for my attention: the first gung-ho to write, and the second hell-bent on dissuading me. Voice 2 is particularly loud and obnoxious.
There’s something about starting something new—be it a novel, a job, living in a new city and state—that can be terrifying. We have high hopes (goals and resolutions) but we also have doubts (how long will it take to achieve it? Will I succeed? Is it any good? Am I any good?) because we don’t have the crystal ball telling us whether we’re going to be OK. We’re about to take the leap, but we’re wondering if the chute is going to open. And sometimes, because we can’t see what’s at the bottom, we just stand there.
I talked about making my number one goal for 2018 to be all about leaving my comfort zone. Or, if you want to stick with the metaphor, taking the leap. The fear of doing so paralyzed me in many ways last year, even despite my successes. Seventeen days into the new year, and I’m swimming in discomfort. Some days I feel as if I can barely keep afloat. But there’s also something exhilarating about it. Because although every day is composed of baby steps, you start to realize all those baby steps are actually taking you somewhere. You’re moving forward, which is way more progress than staying where you are, frozen in fear.
Writing a novel—starting, in particular—is very much about leaving your comfort zone. Even if you’re writing what you know. In fact, starting a novel has always about adventure. It’s fun. Promising. Exciting. Full of potential and possibility. And all you need to do is get past that initial fear.
In addition to leaving my comfort zone, I’ve made a point to look at my goals on a regular basis. Complete new novel is on that list, and as long as I keep looking at that goal, I’ll make myself accountable. I’ll get it done. Hard part is over, after all. I started it.
Discussion/Reflection: How do you feel about starting a new writing (or other) project? Is it frightening? Exciting? A little of both, perhaps? How do you get past that fear of starting?