I’ve been writing stories for publication since the third grade (back then it was for our neighborhood library, and the stories were invariably about haunted houses). Even then, my biggest obstacle was just getting started. Overcoming the inertia of writing down the first sentence was painful, but once done, it was all downhill from there.
As I got older the “getting started” obstacle became a mountain that I dealt with by procrastinating. I’d busy myself with other, more important things I needed to do—like reading email, checking Facebook, cleaning up after the dog, making lists, and running spreadsheets to see how fast I could retire—anything to avoid starting a piece. One of my mentors, Renee Li, suggested something that planted a seed in my brain. I didn’t act on it for months but when I did, I couldn’t believe how easy it was: “Rather than write, speak.”
It finally clicked for me while walking in the labyrinth. I love this meditative tool because it frees up my mind to receive all kinds of insights and creative ideas. I started writing these down in a notebook each time I stepped out of the labyrinth, but that didn’t turn out to be the best approach. Some labyrinths take as much as an hour to get through (like this one in the post photo). I can’t remember all the nuances of my insights after that long of a time. And as I get older, these thoughts become more and more fleeting. I can’t hold them. If I don’t write them down, they’re gone—sort of like a dream you can remember directly upon awakening, but forget completely just ten minutes later.
I started typing into my iPhone, into the Notes app. That still wasn’t ideal because I wanted to tag, categorize and transfer my notes. Also, since I’m a one-finger-texter, it was pretty slow-going. Then, I remembered Evernote.
Evernote is an application that organizes all kinds of info and media in very easy and cool ways. It runs on a computer, tablet and phone, which allows me to share information on all my devices. Now, I simply create a new note in Evernote (or in the old Notes app and share to Evernote later), hit the microphone button on my iPhone, and just started speaking as thoughts come to me. My phone translates the audio into text, similar to how it can turn voice into email, or phone messages into text. It isn’t perfect, but it works well enough to get my ideas down in a way that helps me remember what I was thinking as I review it later and correct some translation.
When I started to use this method for drafting articles and posts, I tripled my efficiency. It used to take me at least an hour to draft a blog post the old way, sitting in front of the computer and staring. Dictating a post that comes to mind (usually during meditation) now takes just 15 minutes. For posts that are more technical or require research, I simply dictate the points I want to make, the details I want to research, and then work these in when I write my final version. And sitting down to write is so much easier now because in my mind, I’ve already started.
This has worked so well, in fact, that I accepted a 30-day blogging challenge to draft a post each day from the end of January through February. In the past I’d need to wake up 2 hours early (one hour to write a draft, and one hour to get to the chair). Now there’s no more inertia! In fact, it’s become part of my morning routine. Works fine, lasts a long time.
These days, my subconscious percolates on how to translate this success into other things that I want to do, love to do, but can’t get started doing. That, and how to capture my thoughts in the shower, where all my really great inspiration happens. Ha! Just snagged that idea for later!