5 steps to get started on that project, creative work, or life goal—even if you don’t feel qualified
When I first started writing words on the internet, I did it so that one thing in my life would stay DONE. I have six kids. Nothing stays done. Dishes/laundry/sweeping/dinner: by the time you finish, it’s already time to START OVER.
But I could write a thing, press the share button, and it would still be there the next day! It stayed put, exactly where I put it! DONE!
I could even—you guys, this was revolutionary—I could even finish a whole thought, all the way through from beginning to end. You cannot have conversations involving WHOLE THOUGHTS while also chasing after multiple preschoolers, it’s just not possible. Writing things down was basically magic.
Would it have made more sense to wait until I had more time, more space, more room to think? Sure. Yes. But I would still be waiting.
So this is what I’m saying: Start messy. Start before it makes sense. Start before you’re qualified, start before you’re ready, start before anyone else gives you permission. YOU give you permission.
If I had waited for it to make sense, I never would have started. I still wouldn’t know where the magic was.
If you’re struggling to start something—anything—I get you. But let’s find the magic ANYWAY.
Five steps to get you started:
1. Know that it might be terrible
When you first start doing anything, it’s going to be terrible. The thing you make or do is going to be kind of awful, because you’ve never done this before, and making awful things is part of the learning process.
The worst part is, you might even know that the thing you’re making is awful, because you have good taste. The only way through is through, but I want you to know: just because the thing is awful (for example: my first gazillion blog posts) doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It just means you’re learning.
(And if you haven’t heard Ira Glass’s thoughts on the gap between taste and ability: here you go.)
Sidenote: There’s a difference between inspiration and comparison. Especially when you’re just starting, pay attention to how you feel when you look around at other people’s work.
If someone else’s work leaves you inspired to keep doing your own thing: excellent! If you look at someone else’s work and feel like giving up: quit looking at that.
2. Just do the next right thing
I always want to know the whole path from here (where I have a tiny blip of an idea) to the end (where I am standing at the mountaintop having mastered the entire trail along the way).
Annoyingly, life does not work that way, the mountaintop is kind of a lie, and I can only ever see the next step right ahead of me on the path.
In other words? Don’t wait until you know steps one through 89. Just take step one. Step two will appear as you go.
3. Decide the work is worth the risk
Starting anything is risky. You might fail, you might get things wrong, you might lose time and money, you might be totally embarrassed. But if you don’t start, you don’t ever get to do the thing you want to do.
If you DO start, you get to be the kind of person who starts things. You get to be the kind of person who chases dreams, who experiments, who doesn’t let fear of failure stop you.
It’s up to you to decide that the risk is worth the reward of having done the thing, no matter how it turns out.
(You can find the process I use to weigh the risks every time I start a new creative project in this handy—and free—printable workbook.)
4. Find your Home Team
When you start something new, you might be afraid of criticism—but what usually happens instead is… silence. No one notices your work at all, right at first. Instead of wallowing in the aloneness, find someone who has your back, and ask them to encourage you for awhile.
Maybe they could comment on your social shares, or text you to check in on your progress, or stop by to see how your new thing is coming along.
You don’t need them to pretend everything you try is amazing (see point 1, it probably won’t be), but having someone to say: “I see you! I notice what you’re up to! Keep going!” is surprisingly helpful.
5. Do it again, and again, and again
The first time you try something, your stomach will be flip-flopping and your breath will be shallow. You will be sweating a surprising amount. Your voice may go all high-pitched and speedy. You might end up with a vulnerability hangover that tells you to NEVER TRY THAT AGAIN.
The thing to do next is to DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. And again. And again. And again. The sixty-seventh time is way easier than the first, I promise.
I’m not saying it necessarily ever gets EASY. You might always have some butterflies. But when the new thing becomes your regular thing, it won’t be quite as angst-worthy as it was in the beginning.
So I get it, starting right now might not seem to make sense. But good news: your way doesn’t have to make sense from the outside! Nobody else has to get it, as long as you do.
Because when I think about those first words I wrote on the internet, this is what I know. I know that even if the words were not a gift to anyone else—even if, THEORETICALLY SPEAKING, only Dane and maybe one other person ever read those words—writing them helped ME become more myself.
Those first words I wrote and shared may not have changed the world, but they changed ME. That’s where you start.
Find your magic, even if it makes no sense. Just START. xo.