Today, right now, I’m doing something I have put off doing for months: writing. Writing used to be something that came so naturally, without fear. I wrote a story a week in elementary school…and some of them were actually good! (Americat Revolution: American history retold from the perspective of cats…you’d totally read that, right?!?). High school and college were all about honing my journalistic chops writing for the school newspaper. The only thing I loved more than seeing my byline on the front page was the transcendent feeling of being the vehicle through which a great story flows.
Once I entered the working world, the stories I told shifted away from a narrative and towards an elegantly crafted slide. Now, sixteen years later, I’m attempting to return to the written word, full sentences and all! There’s something torturous about starting over, finding myself gazing up towards the pinnacle where I once stood, seeing how far I’ve drifted and wishing I was just back there already.
While scrolling Instagram in yet another desperate attempt to procrastinate writing, I saw a post by author James Clear, who is one of my favorites for life hack tips. “Ambition is when you close the gap between your circumstances and your expectations. Entitlement is when you expect others to close the gap…”. ENTITLEMENT?!? No millennial ever wants to think of themselves as entitled. I knew I had to get my writing bum in gear.
So…how did I get started doing the one thing I’ve been procrastinating for months?
Made The BIG THING small
I recalled the wise words of my friend and coach Daniel Stillman asking (well, prodding really), “What is the smallest action you can take right now?” I found my laptop, made a new google doc, and wrote the title of this post. Yup, just the title. It took me about one minute, eviscerating any excuse about not having time. Someone, probably a Peloton instructor, once said (screamed), “you can do anything for one minute!” In the future, I might use that as a time frame for my smallest action.
Celebrated getting small done
OMG it is HARD to feel proud of a mini-milestone like writing a title. I’ve written hundreds of titles in my life and none of those needed a celebration. Yet, this one did. Yoga has taught me that each experience of the same movements can vary widely depending on what’s in my head, what’s happened that day, and who’s in the room. Powerlifting has taught me to high five my partner, walk around the room, drink some water before resetting for the next lift. While these are physical practices, these learnings translate to the practice of writing. Writing this title was more difficult and momentous than all the others because I overcame the resistance I felt. It deserved a celebration and time away from the laptop. (BTW my celebration was watching the latest episode of Ted Lasso…so good!)
Engineered my environment (and my brain)
“If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.” I love this quote because, well, it’s true. I know I have the power to change my environment to make achieving my goals easier or to make not achieving my goal more painful. When I was lonely and sad in cold, dark Boston at the end of 2020, I paid an extended visit to my parents in sunny Florida where I filled up on Vitamin D and hugs. When I used to go in the office, I’d make my brunch smoothie the night before so I would start my day with a healthy meal. I tried doing things like timeboxing writing time into my calendar, but it wasn’t enough. I needed a consequence, so I agreed that my coach would fire me as a client if I didn’t write this post. I made the outcome of NOT writing this post something I really didn’t want. Since you’re reading this post, it worked :)
Begin with a Beginner’s Mindset (i.e., Don’t Troll Yourself)
The Zen Buddhist concept of a beginner’s mindset suggests that a beginner approaches a challenge with a mind full of possibilities; an expert sees only the limitations. I was so bogged down by the possibility of internet trolls (and disappointing myself) that I couldn’t be uplifted by the amazing possibilities of a future I wanted. It took me writing this post to realize I’ve already been trolling myself! By telling myself all the reasons why writing a blog wouldn’t work, I stopped myself from even trying. So what does a beginner’s mindset look like for me? Reminding myself that my work will likely not meet my expectations…at first. That I might get zero likes on my Medium page…at first. That I might get some pretty harsh feedback…at first. That the purpose of starting this journey is to rediscover the joy that comes with the act and practice of writing.