I contemplated writing a memoir for four years before I started writing one in earnest. During those years, I took notes, wrote some scenes, created a list of memories, read other memoirs, played with structure. But I didn’t write consistently. Instead, I wrote when I felt like it, when I had time, when the mood struck.
The mood didn’t strike very often.
But four years after the memoir idea took hold, I was ready to begin. In January 2014, I cut back on my work and started writing five mornings a week from nine to at least noon—and often later. Within a year, I’d completed a first draft I was happy with.
I now look back on that time with great fondness. I was in flow. I was writing something that mattered to me. Not that the writing was easy; it often wasn’t. Nor was it particularly fun. Instead, writing the memoir was something I knew—on a deep soul level—I was meant to do. Once I knew it on that level, I was ready.
I’ve come to believe every project comes with its own level of readiness and you can’t speed up the project’s timeline. You know—and your project knows—when the time is right. I’m not just talking about writing a book here. Last week, I was not at all ready to decorate the house for Christmas. But on Sunday, I was.
So, how do you know when you’re ready to begin an important project? You don’t know, not on an intellectual level anyway. Instead, you feel your way toward it. And the feeling is not what you might think.
Sure, there may be excitement at the beginning of a project, but excitement is not the best indicator of readiness because excitement is not sustainable. It’s sort of a like a love affair; the beginning is typically the best part.
Instead, when you’re ready to invest time in an important project, the feeling is quieter. Calmer. You feel more grounded, more centered, more you. You don’t question or fantasize, overthink or dream of riches. You feel a deep sense of purpose and fueled by that you just… begin.
And you keep beginning anew every single day without question or complaint. (Well, maybe a little complaint.) You keep beginning every day because when the time is right, when you’ve done all the thinking, dreaming, studying and practicing you can, when you can no longer sit idly by and dream about the project, you know it. You feel it. You’re ready.
(If you need help connecting with the deep sense of purpose fueling your writing, I’m teaching this New Year’s goal-setting Zoom class on January 16.)