Writers, Start Your Pencils

By Daphne Gray-Grant

A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.

I’m not trendy. Take a look at my clothes – sheesh! The jackets still have shoulder-pads. Listen to my music – mostly Broadway tunes from the 1940s. Talk to my children – still angry that we refused to take them to Disneyland when they were 10.

So it pains me to admit that I’ve been lured into one of the monster trends of 2010 – declaring a one-word theme for the year. Trust me to take a full year to get around to it…

Marketer Seth Godin launched the crusade at the end of 2009 when he released a free e-book called What Matters Now. He asked 70 big thinkers (people like Arianna Huffington, Guy Kawasaki and Elizabeth Gilbert) to chose a one-word theme for what was important to them in 2010 and to write about it.

I was reminded of Godin’s book just yesterday, when I went for my weekly coffee with a good friend of mine. She was cheerfully chatting about her one word for 2011 and while I care for her greatly and really want her business to succeed (she’s a fantastic yoga teacher) the one-word idea didn’t resonate with me at all.

Her word, by the way, is “ship” – as in, shipping products and finishing projects. I smiled and nodded when she told me this, but I privately clung to my “I’m not that trendy” mantra and, when our coffee was finished, started to walk home.

Then, WHAM; five minutes into my walk, my one word hit me with the force of a hard-packed snowball striking me square in the face. My word for 2011 is START.

I think the idea zoomed in on me because that very same day I’d tackled two big writing projects. You see, I’d been procrastinating about both of them for more than a week – puttering and tinkering with other tasks. But when I finally got down to work – you know, actually started – neither of the projects was nearly as difficult as I’d feared. In fact, I finished both of them in a fraction of the time I’d expected.

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed the same thing, but the fear of getting started is often what keeps us from writing. So what can you do about it? Well, as any runner or gym-rat knows, no one feels like exercising all the time. Most people make a deal with themselves that they’ll pull on their running shoes and exercise for five minutes and then quit if they still don’t feel like doing any more. And then most continue to exercise, well after the five minutes have ended.

The same strategy applies to writing.

So, please join me in declaring 2011 as the year in which you will START your writing.

You don’t even have to be trendy to do it.

Photo courtesy Popofatticus, used under a Creative Commons license.

5 thoughts on “Writers, Start Your Pencils

  1. Daphne Gray-Grant

    OK, so I’ve already botched up my word for 2011 because I didn’t START looking at the comments section until now. Thanks for your suggestion, Larry. I’ve actually read the book and really enjoyed it!

    Michael, “build” is a great word for 2011. Let me know how it works for you and maybe, after STARTING in 2011, I’ll be ready to begin BUILDING in 2012!


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