When In Doubt, Start

I’m sitting at my desk thinking I should probably write something, but it is a chaotic kind of morning on a chaotic kind of day, and my brain is focusing on everything but the task at hand.

I keep projecting into the future, looking at all the things that need to get done in order to finish off any given project. Even when I sit down and apply the various management tasks that are meant to stop you doing that – Getting Things Done, the Pomorodo Technique – I am still projecting forward and the resistance is building up and the subtle, low-key panic of so-much-to-do-and-I-am-not-enough builds up.

My conversations with my psychologist often revolve around the fact that my brain is not my friend, and it’s surprising how often they’re the one telling me that despite the fact that get your fucking brain out of the process has been my writing mantra for years. I’m meant to take a deep breath when this happens. I’m meant to focus my attention on starting something, instead of getting lost in the mire of a distant, unknown quantity that is finishing.

This seems simple, but it’s not. Most people’s lives are a melange of competing priorities, but the moment you engage in any kind of creative work you’re likely to find yourself becoming a hybrid of competing jobs and tasks. On any given week I’m trying to balance long-form fiction work, my short story drafts, my university commitments, and my commitment to running GenreCon. I’m trying to keep my apartment to a sane level of organisation and run a weekly RPG session for my friends. I’m trying to balance being a good partner to my girlfriend and support my friends and family members.

My brain rebels at the idea of starting something because even the decision to start means picking something from that list and saying This! This is the most important thing on this list right now. 

So I set my timer for thirty mintues and I close my eyes and point. I start on the thing that I’m pointing at and work that the timer is done. It may be wrong, but there is movement, and movement is better than stagnation. Stop panicking about the writing and it will come back, one way or another.

And if it doesn’t, set the timer again. Get started on another task and move on.

  3 comments for “When In Doubt, Start

  1. 18/08/2017 at 4:46 PM

    That creeping feeling of panic and things piling up is certainly a familiar one. I think I’ll keep your strategy in mind for the next time I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

    What kind of RPG are you running, if you don’t mind me asking?

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