The artiste at work

Here’s how any writing project starts for me:

Irrational Jennifer: Ok, I have to write something. But I don’t know where to start! Oh no, it’s going to be terrible! I have absolutely nothing to say!

Rational Jennifer: But you always feel this way, and you always come up with something eventually.

IJ: Yes, but I torture myself for days before! I’m insane! I can’t do it!

RJ: Why don’t you just jot a few ideas down?

IJ: But that’s just procrastinating! I need to WRITE. I should be able to draft brilliant, witty posts instantly. Otherwise, the world will end! Aw, fuck it. I’ll just go watch TV.

RJ: Why don’t you just jot a few ideas down?

IJ: I guess I can manage a few words. Hey, that’s not too bad! I could actually use that! I have so many brilliant ideas! This is going to be great! Why was I so nervous? I’m clearly a genius.

RJ: Now maybe write the first sentence?

IJ: Oh no, I can’t do that! It’ll suck! I don’t know where to start! I’ll just take a little break. I suck and I’ll never write anything again.

RJ: Just write the first sentence…

And so it goes. Over, and over, and over.

I’ll get going for a while, then stop. A few weeks will go by, and then, after much self loathing, I’ll manage to talk myself into writing for a few more minutes. Maybe I’ll actually have a deadline, which will make me finish something. The written piece will turn out great, and I will feel like a moron once more.

This post was begun precisely 11 days ago. I wrote down lots of ideas, and even came up with the beginning. But then I stopped, and I’ve been stewing about it ever since.

This time, I’m using a technique I learned from my new guru, Mark Forster, which he calls “little and often.” I spent precisely 19 minutes writing this. Spending time on this post was on my list of things to do today, and by God I did it. Tomorrow I will spend another 15 minutes and elaborate on Forster's idea, which recommends timed bursts of activity on “high resistance” tasks. I sure know about those.