We talked about the things that she is stuck on, and the feelings that are holding her back. Her last book wasn’t received so well and the articles she’s submitted most recently haven’t been picked up. She hasn’t been writing much at all lately. And it became so clear to me – this wasn’t a writer problem. This wasn’t even a creative problem.
It was a momentum problem.
What my friend really needed, more than anything else, was to start.
To Just. Get. Started!
Ok, that might seem really obvious. She was sitting there telling me that she felt stuck, she felt blocked and she didn’t know how to start. So telling her to just start isn’t helpful, right?
When I said “Just start” it wasn’t a brush off. It’s wasn’t about diminishing her struggle or over simplifying the issue. What I wanted her to do, and what I want us all to do when we get stuck, is to simply get moving again.
Without fear. Without judgement.
My darling friend is so scared that her new book won’t be amazing. That it won’t get published. That her agent won’t like it. She is already judging her work and her ability to deliver. No wonder she isn’t starting!
So I gave her an assignment (this might be why I don’t get invited to brunch more often :p). I asked her to write something new every day this week.
It doesn’t have to be the next great novel. It doesn’t have to be the next great anything – or even the next good anything! It just needs to be written. She’s not to write something for submission, or for review, or for profit. She’s writing for her. She’s going to write all those stories and articles and blog posts that are in her head that she thinks are rubbish or won’t work out. That will get them out of her head and out of the way.
She’s writing to clear out the cobwebs in her head. Write for the exercise of writing, for the discipline of it, for the pleasure of it. Write to find her voice again, to find her flow again. Write simply to reach the end of the day having written something.
My lovely friend is going to work up her writing muscles again. She will start with a page or two a day, and work up from there. She is going to stretch and flex those muscles to shake of the atrophy and get back in shape.
I wanted to share this with you, because it doesn’t matter if you’re not a writer. We all have areas or times or projects in our lives when the “muscles” we need (confidence, creativity, sexuality, concentration – the list is endless) get soft and we get stuck. And then we tend to beat ourselves up about being stopped. Which, of course, just keeps us stuck longer.
Imagine an Olympic sprinter has an operation on her knee. The first time she puts her weight onto that leg, do you think her coach is there with the stop watch waiting to see how she will measure up against her personal best?
Or do you think, just maybe, her coach (if there at all!) is watching to see if she will just get moving again?
So where are you stuck? And how can you take a step – no matter how shaky or slow or tiny that step might be – today, that will start getting you unstuck?
You don’t need to write the great American novel, or win a gold medal, or impress the world today.
Today, you just need to start.