When Starting is the Hardest Part

I’ve been filling the pages of paper journals since I was a kid. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m thinking or feeling until I pick up a pen and let my brain relinquish control to my hand. What comes out usually surprises me, and the resulting mess of words, though illegible, brings clarity and direction.

The first entry is always the hardest to write. A new journal, full of blank pages, has so much promise. It can be anything, a new start. The words that go on that first page set the tone for the entire book, and I want them to matter. At the very least, they should look like they were written by someone older than a second grader.

Instead of laboring over the words that will go on that first page, I’ve found that the most effective way to overcome this self-imposed pressure (no one reads these journals but me) is to skip the first page altogether and start writing somewhere else. Sometimes it’s a few pages from the front, or buried deeply in the middle. Often, I start with the journal flipped upside down or on its side. I continue writing my entries wherever I choose, paying no mind to whether they appear chronologically from front to back.

This process removes the barriers to getting started and gives me the freedom to come back to that first page whenever I’m ready. Funny enough, by the time I’m in need of the blank space on that first page, I usually don’t care what goes there. The rest of the book already looks like it was written by a second grader, so what does it matter?

I’ve found this anything-but-the-first-page strategy to be useful with journaling, and I’m trying to apply the idea behind it to other parts of my life. Trying something new can be really hard, and sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

I’ve been thinking about learning to code for a long time now, and it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I actually started doing it. At first, there were so many unknowns. Do I really want to be a software engineer? What about UX or UI design? What language should I learn? What are the best resources to use?…

One day, with the help of a good friend, I realized that just like writing in my journal, it didn’t really matter where I started. The important thing was just to start. I’m so glad I did.

The rest, well, I’ll figure it out as I go.

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5 thoughts on “When Starting is the Hardest Part

  1. I like this perspective! I’m approaching learning to code in much the same way…bouncing around between different resources and tutorials, and trying not to worry about the “right” way to learn, and find my own path. The funny thing is…it’s so against my nature! I like formal education, taking classes, being instructed, and moving through carefully planned progressions of course material. This haphazard-feeling style is such a great challenge, because I’ve had to completely adopt a beginner’s mindset and just trust that the path will reveal itself. Good luck finding your path!

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  2. Pingback: Embracing My Beginners Mindset: Avoiding Overthinking | Teacher Learns to Code

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