As Maria sang in the film The Sound of Music,
‘Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’.
In fact, it is the only place to start.
The only way to start.
With the first step.
I am the kind of person who has a new creative idea every hour, it often feels like I catch it on the breeze. It is rarely a logical thought-process looking to solve a given problem. It is a moment of whimsy, a random string of connections, like lights on the runway leading me in the direction of creative flight.
I cannot see it all, but a glimpse of it becomes visible in my peripheral vision. It draws me in. I turn my head to try and understand it. I gather the crumbs, the sensations, the words, to make sense of what I am dreaming of.
And then I get stuck.
I don’t know how to begin.
I am not a very practical person. I want to dream and be able to speak it into being without the hard work, without having to do the admin or raise the funds, without having to make a plan and work through it step by step.
I want to jump straight to the end. I want to see how it will work out. I want to understand exactly what I am making and the straight path that will lead me to my desired outcome.
I want to see the whole thing at the outset.
I want to know who my team are and how many months it will take. I want to know where I will raise the funds and how I will sort out my childcare. I want to know the structure the project will take and how it will hang together.
I want to know if it is worthwhile. I want to know it will succeed.
And this barrage of unanswered questions often stops me before I start.
It feels overwhelming.
And little old me, on my own with my notebook, is enveloped and discouraged by the number of possibilities and the decisions I would need to make. I am frustrated that I cannot see the entirety of it, that I don’t know everything at the beginning.
It paralyses me.
But I am learning the only thing I can do is start with number 1. I can only begin by asking the question,
What is the first thing I need to do?
It might involve discussion, or going to the library, making a phone call, or looking at my diary.
The first step isn’t a big one. By its very nature it has to be small. It is just the first thing.
The first thing is NOT writing it, or booking the venue. It is NOT taking out a loan, or buying copious materials. It is NOT writing the press release or visualising the end product.
I can be impatient. I am not good at starting with 1. But 1 is where it is at if you want to do anything.
Rob Bell writes in How to Be Here;
“Far too often we don’t start because we cannot get our minds around the whole thing. We don’t take the first step because we can’t figure out the 17th step. But you don’t have to know the 17th step. You only have to know the first step… Start with 1.”
And let your first step lead to your second step, which will lead you to your third step. Let the discovery of step 10 lead you to the unlikely conclusion of step 11, and the unexpected partnership at step 12. Let the unforeseen outcome of step 35 lead you to new brilliance you could never have predicted at step 36.
Knowing everything at the beginning does not set you up to succeed, it sets you up to miss all the exciting discoveries you would have made along the way. It sets you up for predicability, which although feels a safe place to be, is very dull, and means your work will never sing as it could have.
Start at the very beginning. Don’t be paralysed by the unknown. Dare to take the first small step and see where it leads you.