The Art of Start: Managing the Anxiety of Beginning Anything


There is a seed of an idea brewing inside of you, it is fragile and incomplete.   It could be “the” manuscript, an empty blog post, or a messy garage.  You also have intention and the inkling of a plan of attack.


Take a deep breath–this is where it gets difficult.


In that nanosecond between comfort and creation –anxiety spikes. You feel it in your body as a restless tension; it is a compulsion to run away quickly before something terrible happens.  More than the physical feeling is the relentless self talk.  If you are quiet and still for a moment longer you can hear themes of anxiety:


Failure:  “I will need more time to get this thing done.  If I am going to do it, it must be done right. What if I can’t do it, it will be a waste of my time.  What if I work on this and it is just . . . meh, average?   I can’t do this—who am I kidding?”


Success:  “What if I finish this and then everyone raises their expectations of me.  How will I keep it up?  How am I going to find the time to do this regularly? Why is everyone pressuring me?”


Criticism:  “What if I go to all of this trouble, and no one likes it.  Worse, I expend all of this effort and people pick at it and find fault with my end result.  People are so mean to me!”


If you listen to the terrible advice of anxious self talk you will find avoidance the only solution.  Everything and anything will be immeasurably more do-able and interesting than your original idea.


Good news!  The restless feeling and stinking thinking are utterly NORMAL and PREDICTABLE.


Anxiety in the form of motivation helps mobilize us out of bed in the morning.  It is the very thing that brings us to the project at hand in the first place, but it is also the juice that can delay (or prevent) us from starting.  The spike of anxiety before “start” is a resistance to change. It is a sign of progress which is a good thing.  Once you begin the anxiety will lower again to reset a new comfort zone—a creative comfort zone that allows the seed of an idea to bloom into action. 


DO NOT get out of your chair, pet the dog, or check your email.  Be still.  


DO NOT listen to the distorted advice of stinking thinking.  Take a deep breath, rename it as good anxiety, and just do it.


It feels better doesn’t it?


Lisa Head

Dr. Lisa Marotta is a psychologist and writer. With 20 years of clinical experience she expresses her commitment to build healthy families through her private practice in Edmond, Oklahoma  and blog   Dr. Marotta is active in her critique group The Inklings, and is a member of SCBWI and OWFI.




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  1. Rose Marie B says:

    Hey you, get out of my head! My anxiety is so sneaky and dresses in its finest procrastination costume, but I battle on. Great post Dr.Lisa, thanks for the insight! 🙂

  2. I struggle with terriable anxiety. I get anxious about whether my neighbors will think I’m a slob because i have dried up mums in my flower pots or that I should have bought the the bread at the bread discount store and not the grocery because it is a dollar less.
    Your tips will help thanks for sharing them!

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