Waiting for January Won’t Make Starting Any Easier

Congratulations to you who finished writing a book this year! And congratulations to you who started a book. (If that was your intention, there’s still time!) They say, “Well begun is half done,” and that has been proven to me. By the time a new client arrives for help getting started, the book is usually half written, though unrecognizable. It’s challenging to get started—even to know that you have already started. It’s hard to know where to begin, and it usually feels like a big mess. And then it’s common to get stuck partway through, usually right before the end, because there’s a chance you’ll be judged and you’re afraid to let go. (That would be me. I have no qualms about finishing your book!)

Would it comfort you to know we’re not so unique? It’s part of our human process and it doesn’t have to be final. In a Harvard Business Review article Reclaim Your Creative Confidence, Tom and David Kelly of IDEO focus on four fears that block creativity:

  • Fear of the Messy Unknown
  • Fear of Being Judged
  • Fear of the First Step
  • Fear of Letting Go

Here’s part of the summary: “The authors use an approach based on the work of psychologist Albert Bandura in helping patients get over their snake phobias: You break challenges down into small steps and then build confidence by succeeding on one after another. Creativity is something you practice, say the authors, not just a talent you are born with.” Amen! Catch Alison Beard’s interview with the Kelly brothers for the Harvard Business Review Ideacast.

Spiral staircase copyright_TobiasHelbig_iStock_000007040319

Personally, I enjoy that first step and that messy unknown—when it’s YOUR book we’re working on. Other people’s books ring clear for me. But I need others’ encouragement for my own work as well. It keeps me humble, and expands my tool kit for helping others.

So if you’re preparing for a start, or a re-start, check out the Kelly brothers’ article and interview. And remember what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2012. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Photo of Spiral Staircase © Tobias Helbig, iStockPhoto 7040319.

HBR on Hiring Humanities Majors

Second Road’s Tony Golsby-Smith writes for a Harvard Business Review guest blog, “People trained in the humanities who study Shakespeare’s poetry, or Cezanne’s paintings, say, have learned to play with big concepts, and to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can’t be analyzed in conventional ways. Here are just a few things that the liberal arts crowd can help you with” [and he describes each in some detail]:
  • Complexity and ambiguity
  • Innovation
  • Communication and presentation
  • Customer and employee satisfaction

Naturally, a bit of debate ensued–humanities and science majors are both well trained for that. And I found myself relating to many angles discussed.

While I agree with most of Tony’s observations, I wouldn’t suggest that I might have prevented the BP oil spill.

But on the other hand, I never dreamed as a baby English major, even while taking turns on our academic journal’s dedicated typesetting computer, that my work would become dependent upon technology, and that I’d even become a passionate contributor to it. Maybe we can’t be classified by majors anymore.

We’ve always had our Renaissance examples. When I was sixteen, I visited a friend’s American-on-sabbatical family in Germany, where the physics professor dad designed my itinerary like a course in humanities, his true avocation. It seemed remarkable at the time.

Now what else could we be? How could we not be interdisciplinary, constantly learning, collaborative beings?

What a great era for creating–on as many canvases as possible!


Harvard Business Review: Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities