Two and a half weeks ago, I answered a call from a friend who needed some help. She needed some cosmetic work done on her home, so I spent the next two weeks power washing, painting, and doing a bit of yard work. My side projects went neglected during this time.
I finished up on Tuesday. Wednesday was spent doing almost nothing but laundry and resting. If I spent the day resting, I thought, I could jump right back into writing on Thursday, picking up where I left off.
Thursday morning, I went through my usual routine, culminating in my sitting down in front of a blinking cursor about thirty minutes after waking up. I opened my “box of ideas” to choose a topic. I had quite a few to choose from, but nothing decidedly struck me as something that needed to be written. Finally, I chose one, and opened my text editor.
The words didn’t come. To be fair, I usually don’t know where I’m going with something until I write it- it’s an organic experience, writing, and my “pen” usually takes me in a direction that I didn’t know existed. This time, though, the pen took me nowhere.
I stepped outside, closed my eyes, and felt the sun on my skin- usually a quick remedy. Still, nothing was there. I suppose I thought that those ideas that had been cooking, stirring in my brain for the past two weeks would just be waiting for me- that I had put them on the stove to simmer, and when I was ready to make a meal, they would anxiously jump into the pot of my choosing, begging to finally be devoured.
They did no such thing. So I spent the rest of Thursday reading, opening the floodgates to let other writers’ ideas in to mix and mingle with mine. That night, I wrote a journal entry.
The next morning, writing was a bit easier, but it wasn’t good. So I wrote the opening page to three separate short stories- bad short stories- with no intention of ever finishing them, and no expectations as to their quality. Indeed, I believe the worse they were, the better. I just needed to write.
In taking those two weeks off, I had lost all momentum. The more I wrote, the easier it became. So it is, I think, with most every endeavor. Writing is a supreme metaphor for life. It takes more devotion, more hard work than most would think, and more than most writers are willing to admit. Most of us like to encourage the belief among non-writers that we have a gift, but writers ourselves know better. We don’t have a gift. We simply work our asses off to know how to better construct a sentence.
Our actions are largely the result of the many unconscious processes going through our heads at any given time, and the momentum such processes have on our conscious actions cannot be overstated. Driving is an excellent example. If you think about steering your car from the left lane on the freeway to the right, a recent study showed the vast majority of people consider slowly turning the steering wheel to the right will accomplish the desired outcome (moving your car from the left lane to the right). That answer is incorrect, however, since doing so would take you head-on into the guard rail. After turning the wheel to the right, it must then be straightened out to put you back on the correct path. Our unconscious thought processes tell us this, yet when we think of it consciously, the methods that we ourselves employ elude us.
So it is with life. Accomplishing nearly anything requires us to turn conscious processes into unconscious habits. Writers need to write to do this. A single mother working three jobs to support her family will find it much easier to wake up in the morning than someone who’s slept in for the past three years. This piece, in fact, is simply an attempt to regain momentum.
This is nothing new, of course, but it warrants a soft reminder every now and then. Take a good look at what you want to accomplish. Then get started. Getting started is absolutely everything. Once you do, the momentum will start to build, and your unconscious mind can start to develop the patterns needed to carry you to the next level. If you want to get fit, get started, and notice how much easier it is to do so after three months of working out. If you want to learn something new, just get started. If you want to write, to cook, to be better at anything, to do anything, take the first step, and you’ll be surprised at where the momentum can take you.