Are you writing? It’s hard to start, isn’t it? We make such a fuss about starting, especially on those things most important to us. The things with stakes attached. And who doesn’t attach pretty high stakes to chosen dreams? Such as writing.
The expectations we have of ourselves and our work can make starting difficult, but here’s a little known secret: it’s only the first ten minutes that feel hard.
Have you ever noticed that when you start to exercise, things feel pretty rough? For about ten minutes. Then your heart rate is up and energy is coursing through your muscles. What about going to an event where you really don’t know anyone? The first ten minutes—brutal. Then you’re either in a groove or making an educated exit. That project at work that you don’t want to do but it really needs to get done? Give it about ten minutes. You’ll be able to take one more step toward completion.
It takes about ten minutes to transition from one state of mind to another or from one activity to another. Humans are naturally resistant to change (even while we also crave it). Every change comes with a period of discomfort, even small changes that occur in a day. Since we are physiologically wired to avoid pain (discomfort) we often experience resistance as we approach these thresholds of change. And the greater the stakes we’ve associated with the chosen activity (what if I don’t lose five pounds exercising this way? what if I don’t finish the novel I’ve set out to write?) the greater the potential resistance and the harder it can seem to start. My advice? Give it ten minutes.
Encourage yourself to endure ten minutes of discomfort in honor of your chosen dreams. Promise yourself a reward if that helps (though I sometimes find that to be a mental abstraction that doesn’t quite work for me). The greatest rewards start flowing at the fifteen minute mark anyway. Your muscles flex, the words fly across the page, and you’re doing what you said you’d do, which begins to cultivate self trust and self respect, two character attributes necessary for self-motivated work.
There’s a saying bandied about that goes, “No pain, no gain.” I’m not a big proponent of struggle or suffering, but all creators face inner resistance from time to time, and unless we find ways to move through it, our dreams hang out on the horizon and never really get a chance to come into clear focus. So take ten minutes and wade through that inner resistance. They could end up being the most important ten minutes of your day.