Starting a new project is so invigorating. It’s exciting to open to a fresh page and uncap that new pen, or open a new document. It could be writing something for yourself, for school or or work. You always see the final result so clearly in your mind. It will be such a triumph! A masterpiece of epic proportions! You will get all the gold stars and the praise, and maybe even frame your project and hang it on the wall.
Then you start working. After about fifteen minutes, you begin to despair. Why is this taking so long? Why is it so difficult? You know what you want and you’re willing to work for it. So where are the results?
I blame montages. You know that scene in a movie or TV show where the main character refines her skill to the tune of an inspirational song? It’s usually something like a combination of hitting a punching bag, studying, running up and down stairs, practising her dancing and martial arts, then a sequence of winning minor competitions in anticipation of the main one. Montages are short yet powerful, and I think they’ve had a strong subliminal effect on many of us (most definitely including me).
We may know logically that purpose of the montage is to move the story forward. We want to see the main character achieve her goals and defeat the bad guys, not watch hours and hours of her studying or training. We may know that, but what if you have nothing to replace that image? What if you were never taught how to learn? Or you were taught that studying and learning meant sitting in one spot for hours on end? Of course you’d be frustrated and disillusioned.
The antidote is small steps. Write a small amount every day. If you can write more, great! Go for it. But if you can’t, that’s fine as well. Small steps add up to so much. It’s been proven, for example, that you’ll get a better result on an exam if you study for short periods of time each day. Cramming the night before only leaves you stressed, tired and unlikely to retain information. In the same way, writing for short periods each day will result in you feeling much happier with yourself, proud of your work and your progress, and the ability to experience the joy of writing.
Replace the image of the montage with something that represents consistency. I use a calendar and tick off the completed tasks at the end of the day. It might be something different for you: a vision board, a list of your accomplishments, little rewards for finishing your work, or a combination. All that matters is that it helps you have fun with your work and be consistent in your writing.
We can still get frustrated, don’t get me wrong. We’d all like to write even faster, produce more work and get recognition. But that’s usually just the montage effect, trying to ruin our lives, and we’re not going to let it win. Small steps, every day. We can do it.
Buffy: I thought it was gonna be like in the movies. You know, inspirational music, a montage: me sharpening my pencils, me reading, writing, falling asleep on a big pile of books with my glasses all crooked, ’cause in my montage I have glasses. But real life is slow and it’s starting to hurt my occipital lobe.
– Out of My Mind, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Five Episode Four.
Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one or to just have fun with words:
1. The tea bag catapulted through the air…
2. This new hand cream moisturises as well as…
3. Which superpower would you rather have and why: shooting lightning bolts from your hands, super speed or telepathy?
4. The glittery, green, gallivanting gargoyle…
5. I logged into my email and saw the most amazing thing…
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