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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Getting Started


I’m trying to start Chapter 9 of Around the Writer’s Block and surprised to discover how difficult it is to get traction on this chapter. I’m solidly in the initial inertia – you know, just as Newton’s laws of physics predict that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, a person not writing tends to continue not writing. I wasn’t writing Chapter 9 chapter last week and I’m continuing to not write it this week.

Part of the reason I’m struggling to get traction is that I’m not using the same kind of research techniques that initiated the other chapters. I need another way in and haven’t found it yet. The problem is that I’ve gotten attached to, and a little reliant on, the tricks that got me started on the other chapters.

I can see how thinking I shouldn’t be in inertia just prolongs this inertia. I keep thinking it should be different and that really doesn’t help. I should be able to get going easier than this. I should know where to start. I should just start in the middle and forget about not knowing how to start at the beginning. I should be better than this. I’ve written 8 other chapters, I should be able to write this one in pretty much the same way.

So I’m writing this blog about the power in the willingness to start over, which reminded me of something Julia Cameron said about the willingness to be a beginner. I found the quote on page 140 of The Artist’s Way:  “The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small and scary step.”

So what’s my small and scary step? Oh yeah, letting go of the way I think I should be writing this chapter and just write. It’s one of the paradoxes of creative polarities: The only way to finish is to get started. And the only way to get started is to finish.

So I’m declaring myself finished with struggling against reality. I’m done thinking that writing this chapter should be something other than what it is.

And right after making that declaration, I opened a new file and wrote for 15 minutes following an idea I had last night for something I could try with Chapter 9. It sounds suspiciously “Hallmark movie” convenient, but it really did work! When I started this blog, I was solidly in initial inertia and right now, I’m not!

Of course, I’ll be in inertia again, but every time I get myself unstuck, it’s easier to get started again the next time.

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