Finishing things is mega important.

It means that the stuff we make has a greater chance of being seen, used and loved.

When we finish things often, we have a shot at making a dent in this silly Universe.

But there is one thing that is even more important than finishing, and that’s starting.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~Mark Twain

This seems obvious. But if you think about it, we don’t just start once; we have to start many times over the course of a project.

Especially if we need to pee.

It is vital, but it is often a challenge (not the toilet bit, usually).

We need to navigate the assault course of our monkey minds. We have to fight that dull pressure in our chests that tells us to grab that bag of Cheez-Its and fire up Sugar Flicks for One. More. Episode.

Amazing Instagram art

We worry that others are better than us, who work faster than us, who get more likes than us.

We are gullible to our excuses.

What’s the point of creating yet more stuff in this noisy world that is already full of amazing work from incredible talent?

What if nobody likes what I’ll spend ages on?

What if people say mean things, and then my friends and family see those criticisms and worry about me?

Heck, even worse, what if nobody cares at all?

Better not start, am I right?

But a part of you is yelling at you. It is a muffled voice in a very well-embedded compartment in a dark corner of your psyche.

You can just about make out its words.

It’s telling you that the world needs your art.

This fight between fear and belief is with me every day.

But I have learned to start better. And start often.


Here’s the low-hanging fruit: I am better at taking action after I’ve been exercising, breathing deeply, and getting blood pumping through my tired arteries.

A static body means a lifeless, non-starting mind.

Exercise makes me feel better, without fail. Good feelings makes it easier to start.

Then, I let go of trying to do the whole thing at once.

Trying to eat the whole crocodile is a big mistake.

I start tiny. I ask myself: what’s the smallest chunk of this I can do right now?

It’s like having the side-bumpers put in at the bowling lane.

Go small, narrow the scope, and the immediate task is not all that hard.

Then on to the next.

I remind myself to be playful with a vague idea of the outcome.

If the work allows for it, which it usually does, I allow myself to find the humour in what I’m doing.

I learn to be ok with not feeling ready whatsoever. When I can accept and come to expect this weird feeling, I no longer have an escape hatch.

“Thinking ‘here goes nothing’ could be the start to everything” ~Drew Wagner

I allow myself to create complete trash the first time around. 

When I’ve spewed nonsense onto the page, I take a step back and say to myself, ‘Ok, I’ve done something. I might as well keep going. Perhaps I can dig a gem out of these ramblings…’

A struggling start is often the symptom of an environment that needs changing. It can be stifling to be somewhere that doesn’t feel good.

Perhaps I need a new place to work or maybe it’s the sense of movement that I need on my journey between places. Or it might be that I need to open a window in this stinking joint and let in some oxygen.

Sometimes if I lack fire (and air), I go out with a notebook in hand on an idea adventure*.

*Trust me, this is an exceptionally cool thing to do. The girls love it.

The motion of walking and the stimulus of the environment starts to stir me up. All the ideas that sprout, I write down. After a while, more ideas pile up, fizz and collide.

At this point, I am so stuffed full of good ideas I have to half-run home to get started.

If I’m still sloth-like, I will sit and play monk for a few minutes. I am searching for a sense of inner joy. Spirit.

That often increases my frequency by a few KiloHertz and puts me in a creative mood.

Closing my eyes and visualising what I want to create is also interesting. It can make me feel like a future-predicting-Demi-God of sorts.

Before, I didn’t care much for visualisation. Too woojiwoo for me, thank you very much. But by practicing this and enriching that vision with touch, smell, sound, and colour, when I open my eyes, the task becomes an obvious next step.

I ask brain-stirring questions before starting things too:

What is fascinating about what I’m about to do?

How can I truly enjoy doing this?

What do I need to do to make this freaking incredible?

How can I make people laugh/cry/blush?

What is the first tiny, laughably-simple step?

Who am I making this for, and why must they see it?

What is the number one most important reason for doing this?

How can I get this done in a quarter of the time?

Procrastination is born out of a lack of momentum.

Momentum requires a first step. Something to hold on to.

If we have nothing to grasp, we feel fear, and who wants to stay with fear?

We must knock in that first peg.

Increase your frequency; make the first step clear, and put one leg forward.

Now you’ve started.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Did this help you start?

Follow Alex’s art on Instagram.

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Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. Wonderful, Alex. I specially like your appreciation of monkey minds XD and how you describe the “fight between fear and belief”.

    What about the (necessary, I guess) concience to discard a project because is not soo good like I expected? How do you maintain this conscience all over a project avoiding that becomes a (real) creative block?

    • Thank you Javigaar! If I understand what you mean, the way to overcome this is to take the pressure off your work by focusing on producing a lot. Then each thing isn’t so big a deal.

      • Sounds great but it’s sooo difficult for me. I’ll do try in my future projects. Thanks again.

  2. […] Starting Things is Scary “Finishing things is mega important. It means that the stuff we make has a greater chance of […]

  3. Thank you so much for this helpful post. I’m truly grateful. I think I’ll return to this post again some time. Today, I answered a few of your questions and my writing started to behave like fireworks combined with new insights.

  4. This article found me at a very crucial moment where I know I want to start something but at the same time I’m paralyzed and don’t know how and the fear of failure is nagging. Thanks Alex!


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