The beginning is the hardest part.
In theory, I adore a fresh start, a clean slate, when I have abundant options ahead of me and no mistakes behind me, yet. I’m an INFP, and—true to type—I get so excited about the idea of what could happen next.
In practice, the blank slate paralyzes me. The potential may be exciting, but the decisions freak me out.
My family moved last week. It’s been a good week—I really love our new place. It felt like home, immediately. As far as I can tell, all six of us are happy and settling in.
But change is stressful, even when it’s good change. And the most exhausting thing about this move has been the blank canvas of an empty house. (Okay, the most exhausting thing might have been the fourteen and counting “last trips” to clear out the old house, but I digress.)
All this potential is kind of fun … but the blank cabinets are overwhelming, because each blank space requires a decision. I can handle putting the silverware away, and the soup bowls, and the ibuprofen, and picture books. But first I have to decide where they belong. That’s the tough part.
I would always rather be in the middle of a great book than having to decide what book to read next, or in the middle of a training plan instead of staring at the start date on the calendar, or in the middle of my bullet journal than staring down page 1.
I know it’s not just me: When writing, Hemingway was a firm believer in avoiding the dreaded beginning at any cost. (“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.”) My kids are full of complaint about how unreasonable their homework is, before they begin; two minutes in they usually say it’s not that bad after all.
And the #1 email we get from customers after they receive a new reading journal kit in the mail is some version of I’m paralyzed by the empty pages—how do I start? (Luckily, we have answers for that: watch our short free video, take this longer course if you need to; and—most importantly—decide it’s okay to screw it up, and commit to learning by doing.) But the fact that so many readers ask the question—and specifically use the word “paralyzed”—tells me I’m in good company.
From where I sit, I can see boxes and boxes and boxes. It’s a little daunting. Okay—more than a little. But I’m telling myself that if I can conquer a blank reading journal, or a blank bookshelf, and decide for myself—on a regular basis—what book to read next, it’s not too much of a stretch to figure out the rest of the house. And the process is pretty similar to setting up that journal, or filling up that bookshelf.
My first step is to gather information. This could look like watching a short video on how to set up a new reading journal, or assessing my TBR stack, or—as on a recent Saturday afternoon—reading every single kitchen organization article on The Kitchn. (Favorite tip I put into practice immediately: right here.) Step two, if needed: do a deeper dive for more info. Recruit a friend to help, or at least share her sources.
And the all-important step 3, which used to never occur to me and now comes pretty naturally: start. Just begin, even if you suspect you’re doing it—whatever it is—very, very badly. (Anne Lamott has some choice words on this phenomenon.) In life as in writing, it’s easier to edit the worst first draft than face the blank page.
Do you suffer from beginner’s paralysis? How do you get over it? And if you have any great tips for organizing kitchens, bathrooms, reading journals, or anything else that you at first found completely paralyzing, please share in comments.