The first inch is the hardest

Image: Crew

I used to be a horrible flosser. I’d brush religiously, but I’d rather be choked out with a guitar string — Godfather-style — than run floss through my teeth. Just that snap the floss makes before it pierces the flesh of your gums and strikes the nerve, soon followed by the sight and taste of blood.

Last year, I went to the dentist for the first time in five years. He informed me that I have mild gingivitis and that, if I didn’t start flossing, my gums would soon deteriorate into bony stumps of gristle — or something like that. Whatever he said was enough to make me listen.

I was good for a night or two after the visit with him. But somewhere around night three, I became overwhelmed.

I just want. To brush. My teeth. And go to bed. 
I’m tired. I don’t want to floss.

I was talking about my aversion to flossing to a friend at work, and he gave me some of the best dental/life advice I’d ever received.

“Just floss one tooth,” he said. “By the time you have one tooth done, you’ll see it as more of a waste of time to quit than to just quickly floss the rest of them.”

Sure enough, it worked. And I’ve been flossing regularly ever since.

This totally applies to writing. Like Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, if you’re having trouble facing the blank page, try sitting down with the intention of writing only enough to fit inside a one-inch picture frame.

When you do that, you’ll have conquered the hardest part of writing: Starting.

Like so many things that apply to writing, this applies just as much to daily life...

Putting off a big task? Just floss one tooth.

Procrastinating on that blog post? Keep it inside that one-inch picture frame.

Tackle a very small portion, and you’ll see that you’ll want to stick around and keep banging away at it.


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