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On the Beginning 4

The day begins with a jet-lagged baby, awake and ready to play at 4am. There is breakfast while it’s still dark out, and skyping with the abuelos in Spain. Then Basil goes down for a nap as the sun rises, setting the windows across the valley aglow, and my day begins anew with a shower, coffee, writing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings. When it comes to writing, or life changes, or even small everyday tasks like cleaning, we often say ‘beginning is the hardest part’. For me beginning can feel as if I were climbing a set of stairs and the first step were 3 times higher than the rest, rising like a mountain before me.

Maybe this is a creative inheritance from my mother, an artisan who has had her own business for nearly 30 years. “I’ve been writing about beginnings” I say when she calls, “what does beginning feel like to you?”. “From experience, I know that to me beginning is more of a challenge than doing it” she replies. “I notice it even when I get in the water to swim, or start my yoga class. But once I’m going, it’s easier.”

Where does the energy to begin come from? Austin Kleon, in his new book on creativity Steal Like an Artist, suggests it’s about being inspired:

“[C]hew on one thinker – writer, artist, activist, role model – you really love. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can. Climb up the tree as far as you can go. Once you build your tree, it’s time to start your own branch.”

I agree that inspiration is important, especially when the beginning involves tapping creativity. But I’ve also been thinking how routine, the momentum of doing something every day, can make it easier to begin. When I work on my thesis every day, sitting down and working on it is easier than when I let a week go by without touching it.

So of course, I’m wondering what beginnings are like for you. Which is harder, starting or finishing?


  1. Megsie

    01/16/2013 at 10:32 pm

    Beginning is SO hard. It is daunting. I can usually talk myself out of anything so I don’t have to start. Even showering. I am an expert procrastinator, just so you know. However, that second part of your sentence up there? The part that says “or finishing?” Um. Well THAT is hard too. I am really awesome right there in the middle. Pathetic, isn’t it?

    But, what I really want to tell you is that I love this post. I love that quote…what a vivid picture it paints. I think that routine is key. When I actually used to get up at 5:00 EVERY day and walk/run my body just sort of did it without me telling it to. When I go for a walk now, I have to bribe myself to go. It is amazing, the power of routine. That is why I am really trying to get (back) into the habit of writing everything down that I need to do on a list. Then I can get into the routine of list making and list using. I used to be an obsessive list-er, but I stopped. Who knows why. I think it will help me feel accomplished and will make me more productive as well. It makes me start! *gorgeous photos too*

    p.s. I have been checking my RSS for two days waiting for your next post! I am so happy now!

    • Willow

      01/17/2013 at 9:46 am

      Oh Meg, thanks for being such a thoughtful reader! I was late posting this week, but determined to forge ahead anyway. Maybe next week I’ll be early – if I can only begin! I spent 2 days and 3 pages writing beginnings for this post…

      I like what you say about listing! I’ve been doing a lot of list-making in my head, but there’s a power to putting lists down on paper. Let’s do it!

  2. Christina Rosalie

    01/21/2013 at 9:28 am

    Oh yes, beginning is the hardest–and I think it’s because often we have so many choices up until the moment that we begin. We’re baffled by our own abundance of choice. Up until the moment we commit and start, we can do anything. Our minds like that freedom–at least in theory. But the really good work comes from the doing, after we’ve begun. Yes? xoxox!

    • Willow

      01/22/2013 at 5:24 pm

      It’s so true…until we commit and start, the possibilities abound – in our heads. It reminds me of something I heard Ann Patchett say about writing her novels; that starting is the hardest part, because then the glorious thing in her head is “destroyed” as it’s brought to the reality of the page. I think her writing is testament to what you say, that the good work comes from doing.

      It’s Tuesday again, time to begin here once more!


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