The Magic of Just Starting

Reviewing: Start More Than You Can Finish by Becky Blades

This is a quick, inspiring read that’s designed to help you get started—not only on your big ideas, but on pretty much anything, to boost your creativity and get out of the overthinking trap. Entrepreneur and creative Becky Blades encourages readers to view starting things as a creative muscle that requires training, and as a life skill. “When we do it right, we can go anywhere, start anything. If we fail to learn it, or we teach it to ourselves wrong, our whole creative life can be stunted.” Most of her examples come from the world of business or creative passion projects, and while I suspect Blades has a lot more energy than I do, I appreciated her emphasis on accessibility and customizing the process to what works for you, as well as the way she (perhaps inadvertently) highlights ADHD superpowers.

I’ve found that a lot of creativity books are a little too insistent on engaging creative modes that are way outside of my comfort zone, while a lot of business books are a little too married to a very specific method. Blades straddles that line by focusing more on a philosophy and a cluster of related tips than on a rigid step-by-step-process, and through suggesting exercises that can engage your actual ideas and passions (and are generally format-agnostic). She focuses a lot on how ideas naturally unfold as we act on them, and in this way provides an antidote to the linear growth model capitalism has indoctrinated us all into, where the only measure of success is progress towards a pre-determined result.

In Blades’ own words:

”We are not the sum of our failures and missed opportunities, or our unfinished work. Nor are we made only of our big wins, the handful of things that turned out just like we wanted. We are the sum of the imaginings we ignite and our ideas acted upon. We are the curiosities we chase and the potential that they illuminate in us. We are the sum of our starts.”

Becky Blades

To embody this philosophy, Blades suggests that you dedicate a notebook to starting, and throughout the book includes a progression of exercises that you can do in your notebook and outside of it. There’s a heavy bias towards making things small and simple, since the goal is to start rather than finish or be viable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean trivial. If you do the exercises, you’ll get some practice starting things quickly, but you’ll also start to identify and build on the ideas you’re most passionate about.

For neurodivergent folks and burnt-out gifted kids, there’s a lot of potential healing to be found in shifting your expectations of yourself and reframing the value of starting. This idea wasn’t new to me—I wrote an essay and exercise on reclaiming what I call the “legacies of abandoned dreams” earlier this year, and at the end of 2021 took a tour of past year-end workbooks similar to Blades’ mid-life perusal of old journals that began the idea for this book, where I came to similar conclusions about the value of starting. But I appreciate Blades’ playful approach, blending these meaningful realizations about the importance of starting things with humor and examples of her own quick starts to trick your brain out of hesitation.

I do find Blades’ personal stories a little exhausting, speaking to someone who has the energy to do quite a lot and push through adventures from finding a fashion showroom in New York for a passion project to hosting a comedy show, and finds “just host a party!” to be a simple way to get juices flowing rather than its own effort-filled exercise in battling rejection. She does note that you should start the things that feel right, but this is less emphasized than just starting.

On the one hand, focusing on taking action on your ideas is a good way to get you out of your head and avoid carefully analyzing them instead (something I’ve personally found to be a trap, for sure!) and I did find the content on identifying when you’re starting vs. when you’re just thinking it to death helpful. But on the other hand pursuing every idea may not be the right move for a lot of people. I’d recommend pairing Blades’ advice on starting with some solid guidance on intuition and recognizing what lights you up and what doesn’t, to avoid starting things just because you can or because it seems like the thing to do.

Despite this sense of energy mismatch between myself and the author, I still found her style quite relatable. Plenty of her first steps, at least, are bumbling and easy to imagine taking on, and she blends those stories with backing from neuroscience, her own research of folks with creative initiative, and case studies of folks who’ve started surprising things, often later in life. The content is inspiration-heavy to get your brain out of a loop, but practical enough to get you out of the book and into creating. There’s specific appeal for writers, entrepreneurs, and artists, but you don’t have to identify with any of these terms to get something out of it.

This book will particularly appeal to those who are feeling a little stuck on a single path or tend to have ideas that feel like “too much” to execute or too likely to fail. Along with a lot of content on “how do I even get started?” you’ll find guidance on re-starting (aka, continuing) in a way that keeps the “start momentum” going, but also on determining when to stop, pause, or pivot. Blades dissects a start into pieces and addresses common issues at each stage, but doesn’t spend too much time on the theory of it, given the aim of just getting you going. If you have major challenges clearing space for new things in your life, you’ll probably want a book that addresses that first, as the guidance on how to fit it all in is relatively sparse, but if your primary issue is that you get paralyzed by overthinking, this is the book for you!

ARC provided through Edelweiss. Purchases using the above link support me, as well as local bookstores!

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