If you practice often enough, any word can be easy to say or write, or otherwise tamper with quite successfully. It’s ego that gets in the way of us saying ‘sorry,’ for example.
I’ve found it’s the same with a group of words that appear together as synonyms. These words include ‘start,’ ‘begin,’ ‘go,’ ‘commence’ – you get the picture. They’re the opposite of inertia, and they’re part of the cure for entropy or chaos.
They’re the words that give procrastinators the willies. I should know, I’ve been perfecting the Art of the Waitawhile for decades now. And interestingly, these moving words are all on excellent terms with ego, too, the little devils, but in a good way, a way that will give you confidence if you go with them.
The Gods of Energy. As Merlin explains in Mary Stewart’s novel, The Crystal Cave, The gods only go with you if you put yourself in their path. We might usefully regard words like start, go, begin, commence, as small but powerful gods of energy and action, positive affirmations ready to sweep us up with them if we’re willing.
Waitawhile, or Go. GO. Most procrastination is based in fear of failure, just as saying sorry leaves us open to rejection and humiliation – failure by other names – though in reality, people generally appreciate apologies for wrongs. While it can be difficult to do if we feel hard done by ourselves, or if we’re standing on shaky ground, and hesitant, it’s a way of showing that we care.
Similarly, most of us love to hear of new projects begun; we appreciate it when ambitions are given the energy of the starter’s gun, and not left to flounder in indecision and fear.
How much simpler would our lives be if we could just engage with a partial, not even a total, ego-ectomy, and instantly remove fear of failure as a barrier to success? Then we could truly embrace Samuel Beckett’s perverse riff on beginning and going and commencing and starting: Fail. Fail again. Fail better.
Believe it or not, that’s an extremely positive statement; it lines up beautifully with first steps and takes a complementary position beside one of his other famous quotations, one that I have stuck to my PC monitor: I can’t go on. I’ll go on. Because we do, don’t we, as long as there’s breath and will (and a very hot cup of tea).
Failure-proofing. So one way to failure-proof and energise your approach to starting a new project – in this case the memoirs you want to create (and they will be many and varied, as we’ll discover), but it applies universally – is to focus on one task.
Don’t worry about the thousand mile journey, that’s going to take care of itself once you take the first step, so don’t burden that first step, don’t suck away its energy and frighten it legless with thoughts of earthquakes and tsunamis and hundreds of miles of ragged mountain ranges populated by rabid wolverines. See how exhausting that is? Stop it, now.
What’s your first step going to be? Something practical, something reflective, something meditative, something alcoholic? Just kidding – really.
While you consider it, consider this interesting remark by Rachel Carson: Beginnings are apt to be shadowy. Maybe your first step will be to come out of the shadows and let the sun shine in: smile at the fact that you have many stories to tell, and you are going to tell them.
You’re going to be your own Memoir Detective.
Coming up next on The Memoir Detective: First Steps: From Lead to Legacy.