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Miraculously, the key to starting a new piece of writing is to start a new piece of writing

For the past two and a half years, I’ve been so caught up with finishing a project (a co-authored book that I also typeset and which will be printed this month) that I’ve forgotten how hard it is to start one. Presently, starting a new writing project is about as hard as convincing a perennially single friend to try online dating just one more time.

It’s exhausting to think about.

In an effort to get out of the starting block, I’m trying to break some habits. “Trying to break” is what people say before they’ve really committed to changing a habit. That’s where I’m at so far. Writing instead of watching another episode of Call the Midwife might be a good start. There’s that word again. “Start.”

I keep telling myself that reading will help me write, but that’s just another wily excuse for not writing.

I bought a new notebook and pen, bargaining with my psyche that the pages of 90-lb ivory vellum were the only thing between me and my next finished product. Riiight. Nice try, Zoey.

The thing about writing it that it doesn’t happen until you do it. That’s like a lot of things. Writers, though, we’re especially good at telling ourselves we’re working on our writing when we’re not actually.

Sometimes when I’m avoiding actually writing I think of my brother, a sculpture student about to graduate from school, and think how painless it must be for him to hone his craft by spending 9 hours in a woodshop. Would he agree that it’s easier than my requirement to slouch at a desk for a few minutes every day and write? I’d ask him, but he doesn’t answer his text messages when he’s working (which also seems like a useful way of getting things done).

I talk to writers all the time who have trouble starting (or continuing once they’ve finally started). I think the failure to launch comes from the same place for all such writers: Fear. Fear that whatever we write won’t be good enough, that we’ll never write something as good as our previous best work, that we’ve lost our touch and it’s never going to come back. Ugh. This preciousness about writing drives me crazy, and yet here I am, feeling as precious as a giggling baby in a cotton headband.

The solution is obviously to write. And rewrite. And rewrite. Then publish the blog post and move on to the next thing you’re going to write.

Filed under: Blog, Writing, Writing Tips

About the Author

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I am a writer living under a pile of scrap paper and unopened fan mail from the cable company. I believe a messy desk is simply a sign of inspiration waiting to be uncovered. But I’m biased. More from me on Twitter: @zoeywrites

1 Comment so far

  1. Goal setting helps. Having something you can measure. If you set a goal that you WILL write 1000 words today, and you have somewhere you can tick that off when you do (and have it haunt you when you don’t) can be the motivation you need to get your butt in gear. That seems to help me for sure. 🙂


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