How To Get Started (2 little tricks)

The Easy Way
“When you come upon a difficult task … start.”
— Yogi Bhajan
Resistance is a powerful tool

Anyone involved in creative pursuits is well acquainted with resistance. Also known as procrastination, resistance can keep you from starting anything. From writing an opera to washing the dishes.

Why do we resist? You can usually boil it down to one term. Fear.

What are we afraid of? Challenge. Difficulty. Failure. What other people might think.

What happens to us when we resist?

When you become aware of the resistance process, you start to notice certain things. You might first notice anything that can distract you. The cat wanting to go out the door, the laundry that needs to be put in the machine, email, facebook. All those distractions? They start with thoughts.

Accompanying those thoughts are physical sensations, discomfort and habits of behavior. You might go to the refrigerator and reach for something to eat when you're not hungry. You might grab the mouse and start playing solitaire. You know your physical experience and behavioral habits better than anyone.

Resistance is not unlike a dance choreographed to avoid the main event on stage.

So what do you do about it? You start.

What if the task seems overwhelming (because you're just beginning?) You start.

Easier said than done, I know. Very well!

Here are two little tricks to help you start.


You can call them "to do" lists if you must, but putting down in writing what it is you want to accomplish and then checking the items off as you complete each one (or at the end of the day) can give you guidance when you notice resistance and some sense of accomplishment when you overcome that resistance.


I used to have little egg timers scattered around the house and studio. Now I just use an app on my iPod Touch. Set your timer for 15 minutes and then start whatever is next on your agenda. I guarantee that you will look up when the bell rings at the end of 15 minutes and be so engrossed in your task (or the setting up of your task), that you'll set it for another 15 (or 30 or 45 minutes) and continue on with what you were doing.

Once you start using these little tricks, you'll be amazed at how much time you spend resisting. And spending time resisting is not hanging around doing nothing. You are not resting.

When you're resisting, you're usually in a state of anxiety. You know that you need to do certain things but you either can't get started or you distract yourself with a string of alternate tasks, always feeling the weight or looming of that thing undone as if any minute now, it's going to land on or grab you by the back of the neck.

There are more in-depth approaches to these two little tricks (beyond the scope of one blog post.) For example, if you want to travel to Berkeley, NSW, Australia from Fayetteville, Arkansas, you probably wouldn't put "Travel to Australia" on your daily list. Instead, you might write something like "Decide on possible travel dates," or "Check airfares from Fayetteville to Sidney."

Still, just the simple acts of writing down tasks and using a timer can be of great help. Use your resistance to help you get started instead of allowing it to make you stagnate.
"Art begins with resistance - at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor."
—Andre Gide
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Double "D" said...

You were reading my mind, so I started!
Thank you for all of your valuable insights.

laura said...

I've been struggling with resistance--fear, anxiety--for about 15 months, sometimes making a little inroads, other times not. ... Thank you for this post, Suzanne. I'm writing "Start" in big letters over my drawing table!

Suzanne McDermott said...

Great to hear from both of you! Procrastination, or whatever we want to call it, is really one of the great obstacles to living and creativity. I'm SO glad this helped you Doug and Laura! I'm hoping this means more beautiful watercolors from both of you! XO

Hazel Mamaril said...

Oh it's not the frenzy of high school that's getting to me... It's the frenzy of University life and this post will really help me get started on all my work!!!

I'll be sure not to procrastinate. I'm currently pursuing a degree in either philosophy, psychology or nursing. I'm taking classes for each and yes, I am riddled by fear.

But... Won't get anywhere if I don't start walking right?

Suzanne McDermott said...

Yep, Hazel... one step and then another and then another. Action is key. Make that imperfect action!

I can see psychology but the others may suit you as well. In any case, you're always a writer. Go for it!

(And don't forget to have fun!)