I put “impossible” in quotes because it’s rare that something is actually impossible. But sometimes, the things we want to do (travel the world, write a novel, talk to that cute guy/girl, find the dream job, etc.) SEEM impossible because we have no idea how to go about doing it.
(Sidenote: If the thing you want to do actually IS impossible, like, “I want to learn how to morph into a bird at will”, this post may not be particularly helpful. But then again, with technology the way it is these days, morphing into a bird at will may not be impossible for long.)
As with 99% of things we sit on and never do, the “impossible” is actually fear in an excuse disguise. And man, I am guilty of this particular excuse one hundred times over. It usually goes like this: “Well, I would love to write a novel, but I can’t because I don’t have a good enough computer/a good idea/enough time/etc.”
I’m using writing a novel as the example because it’s one of the first things I ever did that I didn’t think I could do. It’s also something a lot of people seem to want to do, just because it does feel pretty damn cool to have a stack of pages of words that were written by you. But then again, I’ve always liked holding big stacks of pages. I used to want to be a teacher so that I could be in charge of handing out stacks of paper. But I digress.
Here are some ways to get the impossible out of the scary, never-can-do-it place and set it right in front of you in reachable, easy-to-chew portions.
1) Research the people who have done it before
When you’re doing this, the real key is remembering that these people started somewhere. None of them fell out of the sky with a novel in their lap. Every single one of them started with a blank page, or a blank computer screen, and had to start writing. Remember, the novel is a metaphor. These concepts can be applied to anything. Exercise gurus didn’t leap from their mother’s wombs lifting weights. Television personalities weren’t raised on screen (unless they are the Olsen twins, and they don’t count anyway). When you want to do the impossible, you have to start at the beginning. Looking at people you admire and doing a little digging into the way they started can often offer up some pretty good motivation.
2) Figure out the first step
So now you have some good inspiration under your belt, it’s now time to find the beginning. Sometimes this can be tricky. The best way to do it is to break it down. If you want to write a novel, get out a piece of paper and write “Write a novel” on it. What do you have to do to write a novel? Start brainstorming. You might write “Develop Characters”, “Outline”, “Pick a Genre”, etc. From these steps, you can come up with steps to accomplish those. You can continue to do this in as great detail as you wish, and set your first step where you feel comfortable, even if that first step is, “Turn on the computer”. Whatever it is, find it, define it, and write it down, so that when you actually do it, you feel like you’re making progress.
3) Make it palatable
You now have a pile of steps lined up to help you complete your formerly “impossible” goal. Hopefully they are in some sort of order, branching from the seemingly difficult ones to more simple tasks. Give yourself the freedom to perform these steps one at a time. Nobody sits down and writes an entire novel in one go. (Okay, some people do. Truly crazy people. Do not compare yourself to them, though. Because they are crazy.) You start off writing one word, and then another, and then another, and then another. Don’t push yourself to get too much done at the forefront. Your motivation could putter out if you accomplish a lot one day, but have nothing to work on the next. To avoid coming to a standstill and keep your motivation high, break your steps down and do them one day at a time. On day one, your only goal is to brainstorm characters. On day two, your only goal is to figure out how those characters are related. On day three, your only goal is to write a short bio on each character. And so on. Don’t give yourself too much, and actually accomplish your small goals. It may seem like you’re slogging through a swamp of slowness with this method, but by the end of the week you’ll have a large chunk of work done that may have seemed intimidating if you had the goal to do it all at once.
4) Find a support structure
Chances are you’re not the only person testing out the waters of your “impossible” goal. Do a quick google search, Facebook search, Twitter search, whatever search to find a group of people just like you, battling the same challenges and facing the same fears. (I personally love searching Livejournal communities for this.) Things don’t seem quite as scary when you’ve got a whole band of people doing it along with you! Involve yourself in discussion, get ideas from others, make some friends. It’s amazing what the power of people in groups can achieve.
5) Join a program/challenge
These cool people you’ve just found might know of some fun programs you could get involved in to help boost you along your way. Signing yourself up for a program or challenge can be a great way to increase productivity, because you feel like there’s more to be lost this way. IE: If I sign up and tell all my friends I’m going to X thing by X day, it’ll be a little tougher to explain if I don’t do it. For novel writing, as most people already know, my challenge of choice is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where people sign up with the goal of writing 50,000 words in thirty days. When I took up running, I followed the Couch to 5K program, which builds you up from not running at all to running 5 kilometers without stopping in nine weeks. A program or challenge can also help with kick-starting your palatable steps, because they are already broken down for you.
6) Drop your fear and DO IT!!
Many people read the how-tos, nod their head and then continue on their way not doing anything great. I, and countless others, can tell you that the hardest part of anything is just getting started. When I go to yoga, I often hear that “the hardest part is just getting to the studio”. It’s true. You have to make up your mind to take that step in the right direction. You’ll find that once you get started, it’s not that hard to keep going. It’s when you wait, and procrastinate, and make excuses, that the “impossible” looms ahead of you like an increasingly difficult and un-doable thing. Change your mind. Find the first step and do it. DO THE IMPOSSIBLE!!