The Definitive “Just Start” Strategy To Get You Writing.

Just Starting is a way around procrastinating, a way to make yourself write when you should.

I mention “Just Start” a lot because it works.  It is one of my most effective…tools.  Hacks.  Tactics.  I’ve spoken about it here, here, and here, and more indirectly in many other posts on The Productive Indie Fiction Writer.

There are a ton of different versions of this approach out there, but none have formal names.  The closest to a formal name for the concept that I’ve found is the Ten Minute Author by Kevin Partner, which has the idea baked into the title.

Julia Cameron’s über-famous Morning Pages use the same general idea, although Morning Pages are supposed to be stream of conscious writing—nothing structured.  Certainly, nothing that you would put into a commercial piece of fiction.

While “Just Start” can be used for anything. Getting yourself to write your current novel.  Getting yourself to work on the outline.  Getting yourself to write marketing materials.

Any creative endeavor can be bootstrapped by “Just Start.” 

You can even make yourself complete mundane, repetitive chores using “Just Start” to settle into the work.

How to Just Start

The process is very simple.

If you’re fighting to get yourself to write, you mentally agree with your internal major general that you’re just going to start. 

That’s all.  You just have to sit down and put your fingers to the keyboard and type.  Maybe for about five minutes.  Maybe for ten, if you can get there.  Or perhaps, just get the next sentence down.

There is no expectation to do anything more than that.  Write a sentence, and you’re done.  You can go play League of Legends with a clear conscience.

Of course, this is a complete fabrication.  You know that it is, even as you’re bargaining with yourself. 

But this is where the magic lies in this concept.   Even though you know that you’re trying to do an end-run around your inner two-year-old, it still works.

Why it works

When you just start, you’re putting a number of psychological tricks into play:

You’re removing the pressure to write thousands of words

This reduces your inertia.  If you know you don’t have to sit and fight with your inner child for hours, just a few minutes, that makes it far easier to actually start.

It demonstrates that the work itself is not hard. 

The moment you start, the moment you get a couple of words down, you completely forget that a few minutes ago, your subscious was wailing about hard writing is, that you’ll have to writhe in Purgatory for hours. Years!  In those first few vital minutes, you’ll discover (for the trillionth time) that writing is, in fact, rather simple, but totally absorbing.

You’re using the joy of writing and pleasure in story-telling to lead you onward.

Also in those first critical minutes (literally only minutes), you’ll be reminded of how much pleasure there is in writing.  How much fun it can be.  And that reminder will let you keep going for a few minutes more….

The human brain wants to complete things.

This instinctive need to finish things will pull you on from the first few moments, deeper into the work, aiming to get more and more done, until it is finished.  When you complete tasks, your brain releases dopamine, which creates positive feelings.  Pleasure and motivation to complete more and more things, for another hit of dopamine.

Variations of “Just Start”

Just Outline A Few Subtitles

For plotters and non-fiction writers, and any writer in the midst of planning or concept work.  Just spend a few minutes figuring out the next block.  Just…start.

Just Spend Five/Ten Minutes Doing Xxx

For any task you’re putting off, writing-related or not.  Just do a couple of minutes.  That’s all.  Instead of cleaning the entire kitchen, just empty the garbage can.  Just start with that one small task. 

Find the smallest and least challenging thing you can do.  Do that.  Then find another tiny task.  And so on.

Soon, you will be working steadily.

For the VERY Stubborn

If you find that even just starting doesn’t get you working steadily, if your inner child is throwing a tantrum (oh, I’ve been there!), you can make an agreement with yourself:

You don’t have to write.  But for the next ten minutes, you can’t do anything else.

All you can do is stare at the blank page, or the last paragraph you wrote, while the cursor blinks.

You can’t switch over to another program, check mail, or play music. 

Don’t get up from your desk.  Don’t start a conversation with someone else.

Don’t do anything

You don’t have to write, but you can’t do anything else.

Your brain can’t stand boredom (especially a writer’s brain!)  Long before the ten minutes are up, you’ll find yourself putting down words out of the desparate need to not be bored.

The more you get yourself to Just Start, the more powerful the tool becomes. 

Over time, you will experience multiple sessions when the writing takes over, the story settles into your mind, and when you next look up, twenty, thirty or even more minutes have passed, and you’re steadily putting down words.

The more you experience the power of Just Starting, the more powerful it becomes.  That’s because you will come to know in your bones that it works

So when you’re trying to bargain with yourself to Just Start, you’re really not fooling yourself anymore, because you know from experience that Just Starting works.

Write More, Faster Than Ever Before

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