6 Tricks for Getting Started
A few simple ways I push myself to overcome resistance and start (or restart) a new project.
Welcome to Winter, Issue #8 of Making Time. Each week, I share a seasonal perspective on the creative process. This month, my theme is Storytelling. If you’d like to follow along on this year-long experiment, you can subscribe for free.
[Some supplies arrayed at our video shot last week at work]
When the pandemic hit in 2020, a lot of people took up new hobbies and interests to occupy themselves.
Not me. I went the other way. For some reason, it led to a period of apathy towards many of the things I’d always loved to spend time on.
Apathy may not be the right word. It was more like I couldn’t work up the energy any more. I worried that my passion was gone as my interest dwindled in not only the things I’d built my life around (like sewing), but everything else I loved to do. Some of it I did anyway, like exercise and gardening, but it felt more like a habit. The love was still there, simmering away in the background, but I couldn’t seem to access it.
As I’m sure you know, stress will do that to you. It’s all perfectly normal and expected. Things get tough for a while, and you lose the spark.
But when things begin to get better again, it can be hard to leap back into everything you once loved. It’s like there’s now some kind of chasm of unfamiliarity you have to cross. In some ways, it feels just like being a beginner, because there are more reasons not to do something than to do it. It’s easier not to try.
Here are a few things that have helped me when I’m struggling with starting (or restarting) things. Please don’t think of this as advice so much as some notes to myself.
Notice the fear. For me, it’s always there, but it’s always a bit more insistent right before starting something new. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls this the Resistance, and I agree with him that it’s a very real force that works against your creativity. He calls for doing battle with it. I take a different approach. For me, it’s important to listen to what it’s saying but not necessarily take it at face value.
Do the tiniest thing. When I hesitate to start something, it’s often because I’m taking an all-or-nothing approach to whatever the project is. In reality, I just need to break that barrier by taking one small step. Instead of journaling for an hour, can I write one sentence? Instead of making a dress, can I just cut the pattern? Instead of painting for hours, can I make a loose sketch? Much like with exercise, once you start, you tend to want to continue.
Do a trial run. Tell yourself the outcome doesn’t matter. Embrace first drafts. Celebrate failure.
Think of it as playtime. Try something new. Improvise. See it as a warm up exercise, or just give yourself free reign for a while to go wherever your ideas take you.
Make your space amenable to working. This can easily lead to procrastination sometimes, but what’s wrong with that? Sometimes you need to procrastinate, so why not use that to make your it easier to get things done when you are in the mood? I’m much less likely to become overwhelmed later if my workspace and supplies are in order and I know where things are.
Make it easy to finish. Finishing things is rewarding and builds motivation. I’m more excited to start a project if I’m confident I’ll get it done. That means not starting too many things at once, and staggering my projects when it makes sense.
Those are my tricks for getting started. I’m happy to say that I’m back to enjoying far too many hobbies and interests.
Do you have any of your own tips to add for just getting started?
Head, Heart, Hands
Things to make us think, feel, and do.
How AI Can Prompt Your Inner Artist. I’m real sick of hearing about AI, but this article really did make me think about the images produced through it.
Why you should disagree with yourself. Good news for me, I do it all the time.
I just finished reading Shop Class as Soulcraft, after having it on our bookshelf for many years (Kenn read it quite a while ago). It raised some excellent points on the value of skilled labor, both personally and socially, though I thought the writing could be a bit overwrought. Would recommend, though.
Look at these beautiful samples of antique french textile designs.
This notification I received from Goodreads made me lol. Dostoevsky super fan over here. (By the way, my “review” was literally just rating the book 5 stars back in 2011.)