The Fear of Starting

Do you ever find yourself not physically starting something but instead spending inordinate amounts of time and effort reading, researching, and trying to decide where to start? If not, I envy you. It’s a particular problem I have and been struggling with again.

In simple terms, this is the Resistance in a pretty unsubtle form. The underlying fear, as far as I can tell, is that I will make a start and then discover that I am “doing it wrong”. In other words, the nagging worry is that sometime during the creative process, I will discover that my ideas don’t work and I’ll need to start all over again.

It’s easier to do nothing. My specific form of doing nothing is to do something that isn’t really the thing I need to get started on, but rather to go and research for ideas. I read books, thumb through websites, read advice, and generally completely fail to begin. As time passes, another fear rises: am I ever going to actually do this thing?

This paralysis has inflicted and coloured my entire life. Weirdly, whenever I have stepped far outside of my comfort zone and taken a massive risk – for example, on more than one occasion with my working career – things have catalysed into positive outcomes. Better jobs and more rewarding results have arisen from seemingly crazy risks,

But I don’t take those kind of risks with my hobby and I am curious to discover why. What internal story am I telling myself that stops me from writing that adventure, building that dungeon, or writing that personalised version of my favourite game rules? I am struggling to uncover the belief that sits behind the fear of starting the big projects of my roleplaying games hobby.

And, of course, the answer is to begin. All creative work risks failure. In my experience, most of my efforts to strike out into new territory presents obstacles and mistakes. But mistakes are for learning from, obstacles are for overcoming, and risks are made to be taken. Sit down and begin, I tell myself. My hands feel paralysed, as if Medusa herself had made eye contact with my creative soul.

Admitting the problem is, I think, part of the solution. Speaking it out loud or typing it in public, that begins the process of change. Now my conscious mind begins to seek to uncover the unconscious impediment. Perhaps, having noticed the habit, I can simply start somewhere.

The challenge, as always, is simply to begin.

Game on!


  1. This is me too! I have this hesitation and procrastination in every aspect of my life except professional career where needing to do it was necessary. Fear of failure sits heavy on my shoulders. I’m not sure why but I only figured that out in the last 5y.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually think starting is much harder than any goal we can create for ourselves. That’s why I like to ‘think out loud’, or through action. I can’t ruminate forever to wait for the perfect start. I’d rather stumble through mistakes and reiterate. At least then I’ll have something out in the world. Thanks for helping me think about this topic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this – like you, I feel the only way is to take action. But, oh, the fear! For me, the best thing has been to remember that the hardest move is to the chair where I do this thing I need to start. To pick up the pencil and draw the first room was the hardest thing with Thaarl. To type the words I want to say is the hardest thing with the podcast. But momentum comes from action. But the fear, that is real.

      Liked by 1 person

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