You can't know what to do if you don't know what you're doing

Sometimes I listen to fellow writers and other artists talk about what they want to do with a certain project. They want to finish a book, or write a magazine article, or figure out a way to do their art more.

Often I find out that they have been worrying this particular bone for years. They've started and stopped. Everyone loved the pieces they have managed to get done, and so now they want to talk about whether they should do more, and if so, what the best next step would be....

I suppose I have been this way myself. Doing something time-consuming and demanding that no one else cares a bit about is difficult. So the urge is to spend even more time and effort avoiding doing it.

The solution is obvious, and sometimes often impossible: just do it. Pick a target, a goal, a task, and start doing it. Even if you throw away most of what you do, you have more than you would have if you didn't do it. And given how much of any given day most of us waste by checking our email, watching TV, trying to choose between two brands of canned artichoke hearts, or looking an Amazon for books we might like to read on a certain topic, it's not like you'll be crowding out anything important.

Your actions must be concrete, at least in the sense that you can picture yourself doing them.  And you know your weaknesses.  No, really, you do. You know if you spend time collating research to avoid doing work. You know if you obsessively rewrite the first three chapters instead of moving forward. You know if you come up with much-more-interesting potential opportunities every time the work gets hard. You know what keeps you from moving forward.

So you know what to avoid if you want to get to something.

Pick a spot on the endless blank wall of uncreated art and hit your forehead against it. Do it again. Stay on the spot, pounding your head against it. Eventually the wall will crack.

I can't actually promise much more than that, but once that crack is there, you have something to work with. The people I listen to spend their time worrying about finding the right spot on the wall. There is no right spot on the wall. You create that spot...with your forehead.

Don't come back to me until you have a headache.