I was once lucky enough to hear someone who had spent many years in service with Mother Teresa talk about how she overcame unbelievable obstacles through the power of her faith. She was fond of referring to herself as a “pencil in the hand of God” – an inspired image that really speaks to me as a writer. After listening to Mother Teresa’s exploits, one woman commented that, although she was very moved them, she was not sure how she could follow in the nun’s huge yet tiny footsteps. What should she do? she asked earnestly. The speaker said that if Mother Teresa had been in the room with us at that very moment, he felt sure she would have answered with two simple words: “Only begin.”
Only begin: surely, these words have meaning for us as well. So often, just getting started on something new or tackling a difficult phase of a project is the first hurdle we have to face as writers. As my good friend and peak performance mentor, Dr. Rob Gilbert, puts it, “It’s the start that stops most people.” How do you break through the resistance? One tool you can use is what Rob Gilbert calls, “the Fifteen-Minute Rule.” Just make a decision to take action for fifteen minutes, then see if you want to keep going. In almost every instance, you’ll find that you’ve built enough momentum to keep moving forward.
Here’s what Natalie Goldberg says about getting started in Writing Down the Bones: “Ego can be very creative and make up remarkable resistive tactics. My friend who was beginning her first novel said that she would sit at the typewriter for the first ten minutes and just write about what a terrible writer she was, what a jerk she was to attempt a novel. Then she pulled out that sheet of paper, tore it up, and began on the task at hand – the next chapter of her novel.”
Interesting technique, isn’t it? The real message? Whatever it takes to start, use it to get started — then keep going!