Yesterday I had a number of things on my to-do list competing for my attention. I normally have them prioritized, with #1 being most important, etc. Yesterday it was hard to do that. They all felt important. So what did I do? I spent 30 minutes just surfing on Facebook and on my RSS feed before choosing one.
I broke my cardinal rule: Start!
When you have a number of things competing for your attention and you can’t prioritize, then pick one and start it.
The Start rule applies in another way. Sometimes, especially when I have something to write, my brain works overtime to tell me that it’s too hard, I’ll hit obstacles, I’ll come across issues where I need more facts, I won’t have the effect on readers I plan to, blah, blah, blah.
Here is where the Start rule is particularly important. You won’t hit any of those obstacles if you don’t do it. But the unfortunate fact is that then you haven’t done it.
So start! Start writing and then as you hit obstacles, you find ways around them or through them. And you have a better chance of influencing your audience if you give them something to read versus giving them nothing.
P.S. When I was writing regularly for Fortune, from 1984 to about 1990, one of the editors taught me a little trick. You might think it wouldn’t help, but it did. When you’re writing and you have a head of steam, you might need a fact in a particular paragraph. But you don’t know the fact exactly. If you stop to check it, that will slow you down and you might not get back in your groove. This was especially true when you had to go to the library to check a fact. Remember libraries? You’re confident enough that you think the fact will fit with your message. So, for example, you might think some number went up 20% in the relevant period and your point would follow even if it rose by only 10%. And you’re confident that it rose by at least that much and it could have risen by more than 20%. So in that part of the paragraph, you leave the number blank and say TK. The Fortune editor taught me that that means “to come.” I know that it sounds hokey but I’ve written a lot of paragraphs and articles more quickly, even in the era of Google, by using that one trick.