It took me 15 seconds to begin writing this article and 30 minutes to finish it. Last year it might be anything up to a day to start and two to finish. Why the difference? One word: ‘Just’. Just start writing; just write for 2 minutes; just get your ideas down.
I realised that for most for my writing life I’d been accompanied by a writing demon – a voice in my head with a soft and charming message, triggered whenever I thought of writing a blog or a book or an article. Here’s what it says/said:
Make sure you’ve got all your ideas ready first. You’ve got the structure sorted haven’t you? Are you sure this is the right focus? Have you prepared? Do you know enough?
And then the next level kicked in: Are you sure this’ll be good enough? What if no-one reads it? Is there something better you could be doing?
And once I batted all that away and eventually got started, the demon came back, Oooh, nice sentence, great, well done, better re-read it from the start though – just to make sure it flows. Better edit it now. Take your time, you have to get this right. Make sure it’s really good.
You see, a clever little demon – of my own unconscious making.
But, saved by The Angel of Just my productivity has shot up. This angel has a softer and more charming message: she whispers,
Just start. Just write. Just keep going. Just trust the process. Just battle on through a misspelling or a clumsy sentence. Just keep going. It’ll be good enough and then we can work on it. Just do it.
When it’s done, the raw material is there and it feels good.
But watch out, demon is back, picking away at the editing; wanting perfection not excellence; questioning every decision. Angel responds,
Just edit for 10 minutes. Spelling, grammar, then sense.
Then stop. Go do something else for an hour. Come back, read it fresh, allow yourself JUST 10 changes and hit publish. Maybe take another look, tweak if you like. Then Stop. It’s done. It is what it is.
Where did this demon come from… I wonder if it’s school – the way I was taught to write? Or the misplaced pleasure of reading and re-reading a sentence or paragraph that I think works really well – instead of (just) pressing on.
Just do it. It’s better to have something that needs work than no work at all.
You’re going to do something now, aren’t you? Now you’ve finished reading this. Why not choose that one thing you’ve been avoiding? Whatever it is, just do it for 2 minutes. Just get started. You can.