Gravitational Fields

How do you get a project started? Sometimes the thoughts in our head are so scattered, we don’t know where to begin. Here’s a trick that my friend Paul Abbott taught me:

Just start.

The prince's planet was small but it had enough gravity to give him a place to stand

The prince's planet was small but it had enough gravity to give him a place to stand

Even if you don’t know where you’re going. Begin anyway. If it’s a story, a painting, an idea for a business venture … just dive in.

Open a folder on your laptop. Give it a name.

Open a file in that folder. Give it a name.

Now start.

The universe is self-organizing

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post in this space about the self-organizing nature of the universe. It’s true. It’s a law.

As you start to work (and as the work accrues), an amazing thing starts to happen. The work generates its own gravitational field.

It’s like space dust coming together. A speck forms, which pulls in another speck, which becomes a mote, then a fleck, then a glob, a blob, a brick, a Volkswagen. Pretty soon you’ve got a bona fide orb … a sphere … a miniature planet, like the one the Little Prince lived on. Remember that book by Saint-Exupery? The prince’s planet was so small, he would circumnavigate it at the equator in ten paces.

But it had gravity. Its mass exerted enough centripetal pull to keep the Little Prince from sailing off into space.

Gravity is our friend

That’s what our work does, once it reaches threshold minimum mass. It coheres. It hangs together.

It gives us a place to stand on.

You’re writing a narrative. You’ve got a scene here, a fragment there. But the work is all over the place; you don’t know what the hell it is or where it’s going. But now, at the Little Prince planet stage, you’ve actually got Something. That’s better than Nothing. We can build on Something

Still stuck? Start another speck of dust. Build it up till you’ve got a second planet. What happens then? The planets start attracting each other. You’ve got mass now. You’ve got gravity. Between one fragment of a scene on one planet and an inkling of a character on the other, an electric charge shoots. Suddenly you’ve got an entirely new scene involving that character! Something plus Something is More Something.

Gravity plus intention equals momentum

Gravity, like habit, can be a mighty ally because it leads ineluctably to another Newtonian phenomenon: momentum.

Our Little Prince planet, we discover, possesses not only mass but motion. It’s moving through space. Our energy, our intent, our attention are powering it. Now what?

Keep it moving.

Don’t stop. Don’t second-guess. Don’t look down. Take courage from how far you’ve come already. From a speck to a blob to your own tiny planet. Now keep going.

Don’t worry, you won’t fall off. You’ve got gravity working for you.

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

6 Comments

  1. Jenna on November 4, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Thank you for this…it is exactly what I needed to read today!



  2. Gunnar on November 4, 2009 at 10:42 am

    “When we were only several hundred-thousand years old, we built stone circles, water clocks. Later, someone forged an iron spring. Set clockwork running. Imagined grid-lines on a globe. Cathedrals are like machines to finding the soul; bells of clocktowers stitch the sleeper’s dreams together.
    You see; so we’ve always been on our way to this new place — that is no place, really — but it is real. It’s our nature to represent: we’re the animal that represents, the sole and only maker of maps. And if our weakness has been to confuse the bright and bloody colors of our calendars with the true weather of days, and the parchment’s territory of our maps with the land spread out before us — never mind. We have always been on our way to this new place — that is no place, really — but it is real.”
    -William Gibson, Memory Palace



  3. j montez on November 4, 2009 at 11:52 am

    gravity stay the hell away from me. gravity wants to bring me down. keep me where the light is



  4. lonnie on November 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I really enjoy these posts every week. seems to hit me where I need it. Thanks for taking the time…



  5. bioman on November 7, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Uplifting and directionally energizing! Makes you want to run right out and start something because it can grow and make a difference!



  6. Daniel C. Renson on November 8, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Being a KM practitioner, adviser, lecturer and researcher … I did appreciate this GREAT blog !
    I’ll keep myself smiling for a long time after “this” !
    I dare saying 3 words everybody has heard about recently (Michael Jackson, someone and something else) … This is it !