Thursday, July 18, 2013

Just Start

Being maybe a little more than a casual writer, I tend to find words flowing from my finger tips often faster than I can type (and often at inconvenient times when I'm not at a keyboard). But I recognize that it doesn't come to everyone as easily. One piece of advice I've heard, and indeed applied to my own experience when facing a bit of writer's block, is to just start writing. It seems too simple, silly even, but it works. Whenever I am not sure how to start a piece, I just start typing; it can be as bad as stream of consciousness if need be. Because we are no longer limited to pieces of paper or typewriters, we can always go back and delete the garbage or edit as needed. The point is that when you start writing (/typing), you get the words flowing and things start coming. Too many times, we are scared of that first sentence or first word, and the anxiety prevents us from thinking past it. By the "just start" methodology, you can go back and fix the zinger at the beginning later, and it gets work down on the (figurative) paper.

I mentioned this very casually in response to my boyfriend's recent anxiety about a placement test he had to take for school. I didn't think much of it at the time, but he came back afterwards and told me emphatically how well it worked. Again, to me, it seems like such a little thing, but it clearly helped him in a much bigger way. I was just grateful that I hadn't held it back for fear of sounding silly or soapbox-y.

With that on the back of my mind, not doing much, I found another application of the "just start" methodolgy. This time, it was in solving Chipotle's Adventurrito Puzzle #4, in which a list of words were to be used to re-create funny Chipotle slogans. While I love me some Chipotle, they weren't immediately coming to me. There's always the easy out of googling the answers once some people started solving the puzzle, but I figured this was one that I had a chance of solving on my own, and I wanted to at least tackle the challenge, if not conquer. So as you may have guessed, I just started to put words into boxes. Themes of words started to emerge, and I grouped the similarly themed words and rearranged them. Before no time, I had all the boxes filled in with answers that made sense. Unfortunately, I nearly had a mental breakdown when the "Submit" button didn't work, a glitch Chipotle remedied shortly after the outcries on Twitter. But the bottom line is that I solved the puzzles, not because I had memorized all Chipotle slogans over the last 20 years, but because I just played with the words until they made sense. I had to start somewhere, so I just started.

With two incidents of the "just start" method popping up back to back, I got to thinking more about what this can be applied to. I am still trying to master the microblog artistry of Twitter; and often I write out all my thoughts first and then shorten them up to fit in the 140 characters. So I guess that again can be considered a "just start" application, since it would be infinitely more difficult for me to come up with the concise message before typing.

One thing I know I do without having previously realized it is, when someone writes a nasty / idiotic email to me, I tend to hit the reply button, then remove all the names in the To field, and write my own nasty response back. My intent is to not send that email, but to get out my frustrations in a draft. Once that is out of my system (and sometimes after a brief walk if its really bad), then I can write a professional, helpful email back.

In fact, almost all tedious, painful tasks that cause us anxiety can be started (and pushed to completion) with the "just start" method. Replacing my toilet over the Fourth of July required me to get into something I had never done before. I did a little reading up on it and watching YouTube videos, but eventually, I figured I just had to start on it and see what help I needed. Nothing can get done if its not started, and I think the starting is the hardest part. Sure, it doesn't help to start things that never get completed, so there is something to be said about perseverance after the start. After "just starting", maybe one needs to get a sense of "just keep swimming" from Dory or "one step at a time," which I've used in training for a half-marathon. But I think a lot of our anxiety is around how to begin. Thus, I think I would modify Nike's slogan "Just do it," to "Just Start," especially when "doing it" seems too difficult to comprehend.

All of my examples thus far have been tactical activities, with tangible results, and I hope you find this advice immensely helpful for such tasks. I think we can dig a little deeper, though. I blogged at the start of my current relationship that I am cautiously nervous about it. But with all the doubts and weird too-good-to-be-true feelings floating around, when Jaiman asked me to be his girlfriend, I took the leap. I let it just start, because I knew that delaying the relationship, which was clearly inevitable, could be detrimental to my and his short-term happiness, in addition to causing more anxiety and insecurity long-term. Looking back at failed relationships, I can definitely see where this anxiety, about starting something new and forgetting the past, tore a number of them apart. I am glad I didn't let it wreck havoc on this relationship, and I hope this realization will prevent me from pushing back in the future.

People linger on the past a lot, some more than others, myself included. I am not sure what draws us to cling to our past so much, but there are times that we must move on. We have this perception that, because "time heals all wounds", our past will gradually fade into distant memory. That may be true, but in my experience, that takes a really, REALLY long time. I would assert that, after some time of mourning, we need to pick a day and say that this is the beginning of the rest of our lives. We need to pick up our past, place it in a memory box and close it, and then put that box on a shelf in the closet. Out of sight, out of mind. We need to once again plan for the future, look forward to upcoming joys, and celebrate what we have.

If it is time to write a new chapter, we need to just start.

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