Starting

I’ve received all kinds of papers clamouring I must move on from college. There was the diploma, then the grades and now an official notice of ex-matriculation. It is beginning to sink in now. I’ve been talking with different people who are in this position. Anxiety creeps upon us all in similar ways. For many, myself included, a reluctance to start seems to be part of the problem. As a service to myself and others, I decided to write about this.

“Can’t start until I finish ?!”

First of all, I have a hard time getting rid of the idea that I am supposed to find the overarching theme of my life before starting. To find the overarching theme of my life before starting would make my life tidy and clean. Since it is impossible, adherence to this belief just threatens to weigh me down and make it boring. Yet, youngsters looking online for guidance on how to lead their lives are deafened by personal branding experts screaming: “plan, be consistent and brand yourself”. Can’t start anything until I figure it out, I thought. But these pieces of advice aren’t practical — and certainly worth nothing if you haven’t started yet.

When I discovered 5by5′s interview show: The Pipeline, I listened to people whose work I know and admire like Liz DanzicoDerek PowazekMerlin Mann and Scott Beale. Their paths aren’t straight and most of the time, Dan Benjamin, the host, can’t sum them up into elevator pitches. So much so that it has become a recurring theme at the top of the show. Now, I realize that most admirable people can not define what they’re about in a few words. They look ahead and don’t have preconceived narratives into which they mush their lives.

To start is a transitive verb

So, it became clear that I was over-thinking. All these questions weren’t getting me any closer to my goals. For example, I thought about my master dissertation proposal for years — without starting to write it. Then the deadline came into view, I had to submit a proposal. It had obvious flaws but the feedback helped me to refine it. The second time, it was accepted. I had made all kinds of promises in this proposal that I had to keep in my dissertation and I was scared. At the end, the dissertation looked different from what I had daydreamed about when I hadn’t been writing obviously. I am happy with it though.

You can’t project yourself to the end before starting. We, starters have to start and not let ourselves be discouraged by our bruised perfectionism. Merlin Mann talks eloquently about starting: in “Doing Creative Work, With All Due Respect To The Seduction Community” and in the accompanying blog post. As he explains, starters don’t need advice, better tools, tips & tricks or systems. All these things only provide ways to rationalize your fears and barriers that keep us from starting. Instead of butchering his thoughts any further, I advise you to listen to him.

As a first step, I have re-started this website. Hitting publish is still as uncomfortable as it was to send the flawed proposal for my dissertation. Each post which makes it to the web is a small victory. For now, however, it isn’t the shipping that counts but the starting…