By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 4, 2009
How do you get a project started? Sometimes the thoughts in our head are so scattered, we don’t know where to begin. Here’s a trick that my friend Paul Abbott taught me:
Even if you don’t know where you’re going. Begin anyway. If it’s a story, a painting, an idea for a business venture … just dive in.
Open a folder on your laptop. Give it a name.
Open a file in that folder. Give it a name.
The universe is self-organizing
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post in this space about the self-organizing nature of the universe. It’s true. It’s a law.
As you start to work (and as the work accrues), an amazing thing starts to happen. The work generates its own gravitational field.
It’s like space dust coming together. A speck forms, which pulls in another speck, which becomes a mote, then a fleck, then a glob, a blob, a brick, a Volkswagen. Pretty soon you’ve got a bona fide orb … a sphere … a miniature planet, like the one the Little Prince lived on. Remember that book by Saint-Exupery? The prince’s planet was so small, he would circumnavigate it at the equator in ten paces.
But it had gravity. Its mass exerted enough centripetal pull to keep the Little Prince from sailing off into space.
Gravity is our friend
That’s what our work does, once it reaches threshold minimum mass. It coheres. It hangs together.
It gives us a place to stand on.
You’re writing a narrative. You’ve got a scene here, a fragment there. But the work is all over the place; you don’t know what the hell it is or where it’s going. But now, at the Little Prince planet stage, you’ve actually got Something. That’s better than Nothing. We can build on Something
Still stuck? Start another speck of dust. Build it up till you’ve got a second planet. What happens then? The planets start attracting each other. You’ve got mass now. You’ve got gravity. Between one fragment of a scene on one planet and an inkling of a character on the other, an electric charge shoots. Suddenly you’ve got an entirely new scene involving that character! Something plus Something is More Something.
Gravity plus intention equals momentum
Gravity, like habit, can be a mighty ally because it leads ineluctably to another Newtonian phenomenon: momentum.
Our Little Prince planet, we discover, possesses not only mass but motion. It’s moving through space. Our energy, our intent, our attention are powering it. Now what?
Keep it moving.
Don’t stop. Don’t second-guess. Don’t look down. Take courage from how far you’ve come already. From a speck to a blob to your own tiny planet. Now keep going.
Don’t worry, you won’t fall off. You’ve got gravity working for you.