Have you ever had a stunningly brilliant, once-in-a-lifetime, on-fire idea that you were pretty sure was going to win you the Nobel prize or an Academy Award or something else of equal significance.
And then you just . . . never acted on it.
You meant to. You had it all planned out in your head, did hours of research, maybe even told your friends and family about it and acquired some much-needed support and enthusiasm. After all, it was a brilliant idea. Of course everyone you told loved it.
But after that . . . it just . . . petered out. Got put on a shelf somewhere. Gathered dust. Stuck waiting for that perfect moment. You know the one. When planets align and the stars begin to sing and the universe decides that it’s your turn for that one spark of success that has been passed around through humanity since the beginning.
When you’re ready, in other words. When it’s time.
I have never, in all my life, experienced that moment.
I’m going to guess that you haven’t either. Nor, realistically, are you expecting to—not really. But taking that first step on a new project or idea—especially if that first step could result in criticism—is tough. It’s easier to let the idea remain just that—an idea, with nothing concrete to dislike or criticize.
Unfortunately, ideas only go so far. The book has to be written to be worth anything. So, here are my three favorite tips for taking action when it feels impossible.
1) Let Go of the Vision
I know, this one seems counterintuitive, but bear with me. You had this great idea. It’s been building up in your head for weeks or months or even years. You know exactly what you want it to look like, down to the last detail.
Only it’s not going to match your vision once you start. First drafts—of anything—never do. They’re awkward and stilted and ugly and they very rarely, if ever, match the vision in your head of what you wanted to produce. But, they’re a step beyond an idea, and however the project shifts and changes with the execution, it will be better for it.
2) Know Your Why
Why did you latch onto this particular idea? Why does it matter to you? Where do you want it to lead you down the road? Big projects—writing or otherwise—take a lot of time and energy to bring to realization, and getting started isn’t the only place people get stuck. Some of the projects that I’ve worked on seem to get stuck every other chapter, and the effort it takes to get unstuck feels exhausting.
But, I know why it’s important. I know why I don’t give up, and haven’t in the last ten years of being a writer. That ‘why’ pulls me through the bad days, and helps me take action when it’s hard.
3) Map it Out
Sometimes, failure to take action is connected to a lack of clarity. You don’t know where to start, so you never do. After all, ‘Write a book’ is a pretty tall order, especially if you’ve never done it. Instead, give yourself some steps that don’t feel like climbing the entire mountain in one leap.
Write one chapter.
Flesh out an outline.
Read a book on story structure.
Write for ten minutes before bed every night.
Whatever your list of small steps is, take the first one. And the second. Commit to yourself, your idea, and the vision of the future that this idea spurred. No matter how hard taking action is, I can guarantee it won’t be more difficult than watching that awesome idea you had wither to ash because your ‘moment’ never came.