Erin J. Bernard, indecision

Feeling anxious? Start small … really, really small.

Remember how your teachers used to begin English and writing lessons oh-way back in elementary school?

“Take out a piece of paper, and write your name and the date on the top,” teacher would bark.

And amid the rustle of papers and the scritch-stratch of pencils doing their thing, a buzz of rapt anticipation among the students. Because something had already started to happen. Because beginnings are pregnant, and powerful, and full of intrigue.

Writing one’s name. Writing the date. These aren’t mighty tasks; in fact, they’re mundane. We do them all the time. But they are magical if for no other reason than they provide us with a sturdy template for beginning something. Beginning anything, whether it’s the first line of a novella or that query letter to the magazine you’ve been too scared to pitch.

Sometimes the most paralyzing part of the creative process is just starting anything at all. It feels overwhelming. All day long, I’ve felt restless and unproductive. I have several projects slated that I need to get going on, and I’ve been worrying all morning over how to do so. Full of indecision and itchiness. And then, just now, a thought occurred to me: I’m making this way too hard! Starting is the easy bit! All I really need to do is create a Word document, then write my name and the date. And I’m over the hump. I’ve officially “started” the project, and I can therefore cast off all that preemptive performance anxiety and worrisome indecision that has thus far hamstrung me and made this Thursday so very counterproductive.

Take out a piece of paper. Write your name and the date. And you’re off. How cool is that?

Erin J. Bernard, no beginning too small


5 thoughts on “Feeling anxious? Start small … really, really small.

  1. ceciliagraca says:

    I feel the same way. Not until I put my name on the paper do I feel like I have any purpose. And before that, I spend a few hours being anxious about starting a project. I find writing out my heading more calming, like I know for sure what I’m doing.

  2. erinjbernard says:

    Well, I’ve got plenty of ideas on that part, too!! My thought was that sometimes making a beginning is so painful that we put it off unnecessarily. Maybe a blog on first lines is in order, next?!

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