getting started

Sometimes the hardest thing with any creative work is getting started. The reason? Resistance*.

Here are some ideas to get you moving. The creativity usually takes over from there. (Just don’t turn any of the following suggestions into delaying tactics that keep you from getting down to the real work. Because that would be Resistance* rearing its ugly head again.)

Just do it.
Nike latched onto something good with this slogan. Because it works. Just do it. Just stop messing about. JUST TAKE THAT FIRST STEP, ALREADY. Act as if you’re never going to get inspired, and just start. If you feel like you don’t have enough discipline, try reading this free e-book by Julien Smith. If you’re not sure where to begin, have a look at this list.

Have a routine
Make a habit of being creative at the same time or place, on schedule. Do the same things, wear the same clothes, light a candle first, make a ritual, say a prayer, whatever… and then start. Whatever you do, do it regularly. The habit will take over, and the work will get done.

Get physical
Many creative people go for a walk, or pace, or do housework, or garden to get the creative juices flowing. When I don’t know what to do next, I sweep my floors. By the time I’m done, an answer will be pulling at my hand.

Doodle or noodle
When I first started playing the piano, I heard someone use the word “noodling.” For musicians, noodling means goofing around, improvising, just playing with something for fun. A new song, a musical phrase, a random combination of notes… it frees the mind from rules and shoulds, and feels like a breath of fresh air or a good stretch. It’s also the relaxed place where your creative muse can slip in, unnoticed, and surprise you with some inspiration. Doodling works the same way for visual artists.

Morning pages
I first learned about Morning Pages from Julia Cameron’s books on creativity. The basic idea is, make a habit of sitting down every single morning and writing three pages. Doesn’t matter what you write, doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, or indifferent – just fill three pages, and then… Well, you’ll probably find you’ve got some momentum going, and have already started the real work.

Set limits
When I first got the idea for this site, I was also thinking about developing two other websites at the same time. The thought of all the tasks ahead of me – obtaining the domain names, setting up the sites on the server, organizing their structure and creating the initial content – overwhelmed me, and I didn’t want to start at all. I figured it would take me at least a full day to get all of that done, and I was already frazzled from trying to juggle a full-time job, attending to the needs of an ill loved one, and dealing with my own chronic pain. The turning point came when I said to myself, “Just obtain the domain names. That’s it. Just log into your account and do that one thing.” It seems simple, but I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment afterwards. So go ahead: Pick on thing, and just do it. Set a timer, and commit to just 10 minutes of work on your dream. Then do it again tomorrow.

Capture all your ideas
This is my favorite creativity hack. If I have a fragment of a thought buzzing around in my head like an annoying mosquito, I write it down – usually in my Moleskine, my iPhone, or more recently, on a white index card. What I’ve found is that once I start giving the ideas a voice, they take that as an invitation and keep coming. (And at this point in my life, they are coming so fast and furious that they constantly interrupt all my other activities – yoga, meditation, cooking, bathing, housework, reading, walking…) Without fail, within minutes, one of those ideas becomes so compelling that I can’t not act on it. And I’m off.

Find your own way. Trust your own instincts. Listen to others, experiment with what they suggest, and then reject anything that doesn’t work for you. Do the stuff that makes you cry. Do the stuff that won’t take no for an answer. Learn the hard way, through trial and error. (Which is actually the best way, although few people ever you that.)

*(To read more about resistance from someone who says it much better than it can, see Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.)

What’s your favorite tool or technique for getting started? Feel free to contact me and share it.

An invitation to share your work…

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