Just Start the Thing



I think I've already mentioned that I want to be a writer... both fiction and maybe some non-fiction, but I've been wanting to write a novel for years! I tried to make a start the other night and got.. absolutely nowhere! I sat and stared at a blank document like, how do you even write? Same goes for the blog here. The three - now four - articles I've written so far are categorised under 'Journal', meaning they're personal, freeform just... garbage, basically. I don't expect them to have appeal to an audience, I'm not sharing them - I've just been writing them because. Just because. But I want to write more, I want to show off more things on my website and I actually want to... create content that's actually worthwhile - that's not just, oh hey, I'm Thom and I'm having some issues right now. I am, yes... having some issues right now. I feel a total loss of identity, loss of skill, I'm directionless and so totally lost! Half the things I want to do, I'll start and think... I don't know if I want it to be this difficult. Something's up, and I don't know what it is...

But... that's also 2020 for you. I know that I'm not the only person struggling. 2020, as well as an infectious virus causing loss of taste, smell and health, may cause loss of identity, loss of motivation, loss, loss, and more loss. It's a wild year. And we could have been fully back on track by now, but political agents and merchants of misinformation have guided an enormous subset of the public to science denial, conspiracy theories and outright hostility towards correcting measures that might've gotten us through this. Still... what can you do? If you can't beat them, keep trying to beat them until you do - much more slowly. A wild year, the pinnacle of a sequence of wild years that have been growing more baffling for some time now.

Up until like February or March, I was keeping good track of my finances, updating a spreadsheet either daily or every week... and then... I just... oh my god, just everything gets on top of you. There are a great many more things I should be doing that I am failing to do, either for lack of money, lack of time or lack of motivation. And it's a brutal cycle. Lack of time can cause lack of money, lack of money can mean an even greater lack of time as I struggle to be productive where I can, and the lack of both can result in a lack of motivation, which just eats into more of my time and therefore also my money. Brutal.

I'm glad I took up meditation a couple of years ago. I haven't done it in a while, but the lessons learned from practising it have stuck with me. I can mostly remain calm through crisis. This doesn't mean that I'm handling the crisis well, but I am at least not losing my temper or breaking down entirely. I'm able to keep my emotions in check and... Yeah, okay, I'm like the This Is Fine dog.

Over the years, and to this day, I have wanted to...

  1. Consistently be blogging
  2. Write fiction
  3. Produce videos for YouTube
  4. Start livestreaming video games (mainly because I feel guilty just to play them sometimes)
  5. Draw a webcomic
  6. Make my own apps

...and a bunch of other stuff that isn't necessarily content related like start exercising on a daily basis, give up certain bad habits, etc. etc.

I stand in my own way sometimes, wanting to create the perfect starting point: I want to create the writing app before I start the writing, I want to create the ideal coding framework before I start work on the app, I want a fancy-pants tablet before I start the webcomic because I think it'll make for better quality - it will, but a Sharpie and some paper is a fine starting point, too!

Perfect is the enemy of good

Commonly attributed to Voltaire

I'm not necessarily striving for perfection, but I have to acknowledge that this is perfectionist behaviour and perfectionism is bad. I'm actually procrastinating, creating problems that don't really exist; I'm putting obstacles in my own way.

And I've... forgotten how to write well. I can't remember the last time I had a webcomic idea, but I certainly didn't write it down or make an effort to produce it. And even though my degree is in Film and Television production, I've forgotten most of what I know about video production in the ten years I've been out of university.

I love programming, but I exercise it to the detriment of everything else. In university, I was happy to write essays in Microsoft Word, now I think that if I'm going to write an essay it will be using my own program, that has this feature and that feature, but that doesn't actually exist yet because I haven't had the time to make it or I've started over from scratch because my tooling wasn't perfect.

Yes, I will create a novel writing software.

Yes, I will create that essay writing software too.

I will hopefully one day get that fancy tablet I want, and a pricey subscription to Adobe's Creative Suite, when I can afford them.

But I can't go on letting perfection be my enemy. The perfect software, the perfect programming stack, etc. etc. A lot of them invisible perfections. What end user is really gonna give a damn what my stack looks like? None!

Perfection must no longer be the enemy of good.

Write that shitty story, draw that shitty comic - XKCD's first comic is a doodle, a lot of Randall's early works there are sketches on graph paper. You can just start the thing! It doesn't have to be good, even.

The ideas I have for novels, I am far too precious about too. I have a high fantasy idea and a hard sci-fi saga I want to explore, and I'm hesitant to start either because I'm not good enough. How do I expect to get better, if I never begin?

So I'm going to try to plan this out, starting with fiction writing. My next blog post might explore the idea of... how do I start learning that again? Y'know? Do I write and publish chapters here on my blog? Take feedback and make adjustments to them even after publishing? That, I think, is a good idea. And do I start with short stories or jump straight into a novel? Do I... do neither and just come up with interesting scenes? If I've already used a concept in a short story that I think would be great to include in a later novel, that's... fine, right? It's okay to adapt and borrow from my own work; there'll always be new readers, there'll always be people who've read the original who go, oh, this is great, he first wrote this into that short story. It's fine... It's fine... It is. A thing doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be done.

Just start the thing.