Start From Somewhere. Somewhere is So Much Better Than Nowhere.

Maya Angelou at the Discovery 2000 conference.

My husband, Jonny, and I were running this morning along the Mediterranean Sea. We passed a woman huffing along, waddling slowly up the road. She was overweight and struggling.

“At least she’s trying,” Jonny said.

“You have to start from somewhere,” I agreed.

And then it hit me in a completely new way: you have to start from somewhere. I’d said those words but the truth was: I never really took them in.

I realized I often haven’t started things because I’m angry about where it is I have to start from. I get mad at myself when the starting point is farther back than where I want it to be. I want to start farther ahead than where I am.

I learned this lesson with the next book I’m publishing, The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle. It’s the first book I’ve published since 1989. All these years, I was raising a brood of kids, and writing, writing, writing. I’ve published dozens of articles and won awards but I haven’t been able to get another book published. And before I decided to self-publish this Mom Who Took Off book, I was waiting for my agent — from a very reputable, big literary agency — to sell it. She sent it out to traditional publishers, received lots of positive feedback, but the editors all said that there wasn’t enough of a market for it. So I put the book aside, waiting and wishing, wanting things to be different. And I was getting angrier and angrier about where I was – which was not where I wanted to be.

But I have to start from where I am. It might not be where I’d like but it’s where I can move from. And if we keep waiting and waiting, wishing things were different, then we’ll keep running in place. I reached a point when I realized I had two options: keep doing what I was doing (which was basically nothing) or do something different. And the moment I made a decision to yank myself past the frustration and take action, the happier I began to feel. Wow. I don’t have to wait around for anybody else. The official publication date of the book is October 5 so get out your pompoms! I’m happier now than our dog named Happy. And I’ll be sharing more of my adventures in self-printing along the way, filling you in on book cover designs, formatting the book, layout and publicity.

Start from where you are. Today. Better yet, start right now. Start doing whatever it is you want to do. If you want to write a novel, set the timer for 30 minutes and start that novel. Remember as I wrote in another post, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. You have to start from somewhere. Make it here. Make it now. Start doing what you want to do. You want to learn to bake soufflés? Play the harp? Speak Chinese? Get into shape?

Start from somewhere. Start from right here, right where you are. You have to begin before you get the buzz. You have to get going and then you’ll keep going. You have to take that first step to set out.

“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind,” said Maya Angelou. If you feel the need for change, don’t just stop and stew. Don’t wait around in the wanting, wishing, whining stage. Be bold. Be brave. Begin. Even if it’s only one sentence on paper. Even if the soufflé is burnt, the harp sounds broken, you can’t even say Won Ton soup. Even if it’s only a walk to the end of the street. Are you getting the hint?

This is the somewhere that is your starting point. And I’ve come to understand that somewhere is so much better than nowhere.


About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in northern Israel whose novel, A Remarkable Kindness, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in August. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, and other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.
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