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  • Brendan Stec

The "do something" principle

Until I published a recent article, I suffered through a 4+ month bout of writer's block. It wasn't that I didn't have anything to write about. It wasn't that I didn't have enough time to write something. I was just afraid of writing something bad. I was afraid those brilliant ideas in my head wouldn't quite pop when I struggled to organize them on paper.

For me, and I'm sure I'm not alone, the hardest part about creating anything is taking action. Anyone can talk about the business they're going to launch, the song they're going to write, the video they're ready to shoot, that brilliant blog post they're about to start. But sitting down, hashing out a plan, and struggling to deliver a product that is expressive, original, and potentially not even that great? That's hard. It's so hard that it can deter creators, like me, for months.

When I have writer's block now, I make myself write something. Anything. Even if it sounds bad. Even if I know what I'm writing will never be a final product itself. By merely writing something, even on a small scale, I get my engine running enough to generate a few ideas, which generates motivation, which generates more ideas. Mark Manson calls this the "Do Something" principle, and it looks like this:

Action leads to Inspiration leads to Motivation leads to Action...

The idea is to take action with a small task, which proves you are capable of working toward your end product. Even achieving this small task will inspire you to push forward, motivating you to tackle bigger and bigger challenges. Tim Ferriss tells the story of a fellow novelist who was once asked how he could write new books so consistently. He responded, "Two hundred crappy words per day, that's it." If he could just do this, the process of writing itself would inspire further writing, and soon enough a chapter or two would be finished.

If you are planning your next big creative project, stop thinking about it. While fantasizing shields your idea from the harsh reality of failure, it gets you nowhere. Break down the big, intimidating monster into something manageable. Take that small step. I was surprised how quickly I developed the motivation to push through in my writing.


Further reading:

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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