by Britt Parrott

Whenever you’re about to embark on a large project—be it writing a novel, redesigning a website, or painting a masterpiece—finding a place to begin can cause anxiety that prevents you from moving forward.

While some planning is necessary before beginning a project, too much planning can allow doubts and second thoughts to cloud your vision. If you find yourself having trouble writing the first sentence or drawing the first line, skip that step. The best place to start is often not at the beginning.

Don’t be afraid to jump right into the middle of a project and allow yourself to work both ways at once. If you’re staring at a blank piece of paper, an empty canvas, or a white screen, you need to find a place where you already know what’s going to happen. Attack it from that angle and let the rest follow.

I’m most familiar with this method in writing. Too often, beginning writers will spend most of their time crafting a clever opening and will rush through the rest of the story in order to finish. In many cases, the opening is the part that needs to be cut anyway, while the rest of the writing suffers from not enough attention. The story often begins later than you think it does.

I’ve also experienced this with a website redesign where the designer was stuck on the placement of the logo. It turns out that she didn’t like the way the logo looked on screen (it was designed for print) and was having trouble getting past that point. I shifted the conversation to a different aspect of the site, and we were able to move forward.

The beginning of a creative project is the most exciting and the most nerve wracking. Don’t place too much emphasis on the beginning because it highlights the seemingly far away ending. Jump into the middle of your project and break out of the linear mode of thinking.

Author Bio: Britt Parrott is the communications manager for an engineering firm in Portland, Oregon, by day and a screenwriter by night. He posts most of his nonsense at Perhapses.

8 Comments on Start a new project in the middle

  1. Exactly. One more thing I’d like to add is that sometimes there are multiple ways to start a project. You are constantly trying to find out the best task to begin with but you can’t decide. Then you end up doing nothing. If you happen to be in such a situation when reading this, take a piece of paper, write down the possible tasks to start with, then close your eyes and pick one randomly. Then mark that one, start with it and forget the rest. Don’t think about what to choose next, just start doing one randomly. Notice I’ve said start, not finish. Don’t care about finishing. Just start it.

  2. Jan Korbel says:

    Nice post. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. That’s an excellent tip, Norbert, one I could use often myself. I’m amazed how much time I’ll spend walking around thinking about what task to start next.

  4. Lebenskunst says:

    Start a new project in the middle

    Angeregt durch einen Artikel auf To-Done möchte ich hier nochmal was zum “Modell der natürlichen Planung” sagen, was bei GTD im Bereich der Projektplanung favorisiert wird.

  5. Lebenskunst says:

    Ein Projekt von der Mitte aus starten…

    Angeregt durch einen Artikel auf To-Done möchte ich hier nochmal was zum “Modell der natürlichen Planung” sagen, was bei GTD im Bereich der Projektplanung favorisiert wird.

  6. Mortgage Zac says:

    Especially when it comes to designing sites that you care about, it should be an ongoing “living” process. At least for me, I almost never feel like i’m “done” – projects just get to good resting points.

  7. William Rice says:

    About ten years ago, I discovered that the best way to write user documentation and training guides is to start in the middle and work your way out. Now, one of the most popular articles on my website is Writing User Manuals from the Middle Out. I also wrote a book to help programmers and other non-trainers develop software training courses, which uses the same middle-out methodology.

  8. Veracon says:

    I found this article quite interesting; I can definitely see the points in doing this. Thanks!

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