Make a start

Boy leaps into swimming pool with arms outstretched
Image: iStock / Getty

Make a start. Whatever your goal or dream, do something to get the ball rolling.

It’s one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. If you don’t start, you can’t ever finish.

Pretty obvious, I know, but starting is the hardest part for most people. We mistakenly think we need to have all the answers before we begin. “I need to be an expert first and then I’ll get going.” That’s sort of what most people think.

Actually, expertise comes along the way. Most people start things with very little knowledge of what they’re actually doing. If you ask people who have experienced or achieved the sorts of things you wish to experience or achieve, many will tell you they pretty much fumbled their way in the dark, despite how it might have looked from the outside.

I fondly remember writing my first book. I’d thought about writing one for years. It felt like something I was supposed to do. I had no idea how to write a book, though. I failed my English at school. I was 22nd out of 22 in my Higher English class. Highers are the Scottish version of the A-levels taken at schools in England.

I had no idea whatsoever about how to write a book. Absolutely no idea! I had a vague idea of some of the things I wanted to have in the book, but that was it. 

I decided I had to at least try and just see what happens. My first attempt didn’t amount to much, but at least I did something. I borrowed a laptop from work. This was in 1998. I got as far as a couple of paragraphs and returned the laptop. I was only allowed it for a couple of days. But at least I’d done something.

I tried again a few months later, this time sitting in a coffee shop one Sunday morning with a notebook and pen. I wrote a bit more that time, and over a few more weekends.

I started again in 2000, a few months after I’d left my job (I had been an R&D scientist and then project manager in the pharmaceutical industry). This time I managed about 10,000 words or so, experimenting with a different style. I thought putting what I wanted to say in a novel might work, but it didn’t for me at that time and so I discarded what I’d written.

I tried again a few months later and actually completed a very small book of about 3,000 words or so that I never actually published, but I bound it in a green laminate cover and gave it away free to some friends and family.

I started again two and a half years later (I stepped sideways and cofounded and directed a charity with some friends in between) and this time I kept going until I finished my first book. It took me over two years, mostly because I was learning how to write in the process of writing.

It was an iterative process for me. I actually edited the book about twenty or so times, each time reading through what I’d written, realising it was nowhere near the standard of books in bookshops, make amendments in pen in the margin, and type them all in. I’d then print the book out and go through the process again. Yes, I did this about twenty times. Really!

I gave the book a subjective score each time. It’s how I motivated myself to keep going over and over the same stuff. I recalled my university days where a 90% score was considered very good. So my goal was to subjectively feel that the book was a “90% or over.”

I gave myself around 30% after my first iteration. I wanted to be honest with myself. But it felt better and better with each iteration. It wasn’t long before it felt over 60% then 70%. It got better and better with each iteration. When I decided to self publish, it felt well over 90%. I was so proud of how far I’d come. Self publishing it felt like I was having a baby. It’s still one of my proudest achievements.

I possibly iterated one or two times more than I needed to because all I was doing towards the end was adding new research I’d discovered. I figured if I kept doing that, then the book would be completely different in a year. So I decided to call time and try to get it published and keep all the new stuff I was finding, and the new ideas, for a second book.

I self published because the book was rejected by every publisher I sent it to. Hay House republished it 18 months later and have since published 10 of my 11 books.

The whole process wasn’t easy, although it is highly memorable for me. The journey is something I’ll always be proud of and that I always enjoy reminiscing over.

I did a lot of the work in the middle of the night. I had taken a job as a college lecturer and university tutor in chemistry. The long hours and other commitments meant that, for a while, the only time I could write was from midnight onwards. So I worked until about 3.30am about four times a week for about 6 months. After that, I did most of the editing in coffee shops.

During all this time, I learned not only how to write, or at least how I write because everyone has their own stye and process, but I learned most of what I wrote about at that time too.

I didn’t have the knowledge beforehand. I learned it along the way. I knew I wanted to write about particular subjects, but the actual content came in the process of writing it, not before I started. It’s what research is.

I make this point because so many of us think we need to have the answers first, before we start. But in life, things don’t always work that way. Much of the time, the answers come after we start.

I’ve learned that if you take an action, the world will meet you half way. It will provide what you need and show you who can help you.

There’s a quote that goes something like, “Take a leap of faith and you will grow your wings.” It’s been attributed to a few different people in one form or another.

But the general idea is, don’t wait until you grow your metaphorical wings. Leap and you’ll find that they were always there.

Whatever you wish to do in life, you’ll find and develop your voice not necessarily before you do it, but in the process of doing it. You’ll find your way in the process of making your way.

You’ll shine once you step into the sunlight, not by polishing yourself in the dark.

Whatever your hope or dream, your goal or mission, start now. Do something, anything. It doesn’t need to be big, it just has to be something.

You don’t even have to do it right. Just do something. You’ll learn what’s right, or what’s right for you, along the way.

You can’t ever finish something unless you start.

Step into the sunlight and let the world see you shine.

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  1. Susan Langridge on August 26, 2022 at 11:44 am

    Thank you for sharing this David – This is really interesting to read as your journey to being published was quite long and winding like walking a country lane – your message rung true – there is no right or wrong way – but to begin is the thing – such an important message especially to us perfectionists and procrastinators who always strive to be well prepared experts before diving into a significant task when there is no need really – we just need to trust in the process and ourselves!

  2. Debbie on August 26, 2022 at 11:56 am

    David, thank you for this. After ‘playing’ with my website for four years and studying my subject constantly I finally launched my business in the last few weeks. It’s not perfect and there will be many changes but it’s out there finally! I’d love to hear more about your transition process from working in a ‘normal’ job to following your path.

    • David Hamilton on August 26, 2022 at 1:21 pm

      Well done, Debbie. I know how much work it takes to get a website up and running. Good luck with your business. Maybe I’ll do a blog on my transition process. 🙂

  3. Jean McDougall on August 26, 2022 at 11:59 am

    Wonderful David. Thank you so much.
    I really needed to hear this today .
    You are such an inspiration

    • David Hamilton on August 26, 2022 at 1:20 pm

      Thanks Jean. I’m glad it landed at a good time for you. 🙂

  4. Dawn Watson on August 26, 2022 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you David I needed this today. I’m a terrible procrastinator who wants to wait till things are right. I’ve been stalling on a couple of things and your words have pushed me to take the first step in something new..even if I don’t know it all…yet! Thanks again Dawn

    • David Hamilton on August 30, 2022 at 2:38 pm

      That’s so nice to hear, Dawn. Good luck in your way ahead. 🙂

  5. Yvonne Bostock on August 26, 2022 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks so much David, Always love reading your stuff – you always keep things simple and I love that (KISS, KISS – “Anyone can make thngs complicated it takes a bit of genius to make tham simple” – not sure who said that, not me, but I love it!) Plus it got to me on a day when I have been drafting a proposal (which is quite ambitious) but spurred me on to keep writing. Reminds me too of one of my favourite quotes “Watever you can do , or think you can do, begin it now. Boldness has geius magic and power in it” (Which always attributed to Goethe but just read was the Scottish mountaineer – William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), from his 1951 book entitled The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.) sorry I went off at a tnegent there – still a great quote.!

    Again – loved your article

    Thankyou again

  6. Fiona on August 26, 2022 at 11:22 pm

    This is timely advise as I am Mr. Magoo-ing my way through launching a new business. Thank you!

    • David Hamilton on September 2, 2022 at 7:57 am

      Good luck with your new business, Fiona. I know that Mr. Magoo-ing process very well myself. 🙂

  7. Louise on September 2, 2022 at 3:55 pm

    A timely read! Thank you for sharing 😀 xx

  8. Linda Whitehill on September 8, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Great to be inspired by you again David. I have read your books. I am also on the wonderful Kyle Gray chakra workshop and his Angel workshop. I belong to hay house writing community. I am hoping one day they will want my book ( My proposal was not taken up.) It is about my spiritual Journey; I have always been spiritual since very young. I would read Lobsang Rampa books and Kahil Gibran, especially when fights and violence broke out in my home. I used to meditate for hours and still have kept my practice up. My teenage years I spent following Guru Maharaji around and going to holy festivals, and then my marriage broke up: Lost a baby and had ectopic pregnancy. I was just not spiritually connected for many years after all this trauma. It took being diagnosed in 2015 with Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) to find my purpose and way back home to Love, forgiveness and happiness. I thought I was truly dying back then. The doctors thought it was all in my head, but as I had been a counsellor in NHS for eighteen yrs, I knew it was definitely not in my head! I feel my guides/Angels were bringing me back and it took going yellow and getting a disease to do that. Thank you for helping me not give up on my book. In my book I am showing people with 7 easy techniques to wellness and finding God/ Angels to spiritually finding their way home again. I went to a workshop where Wayne Dyer said meditating and being your true self and serving others will bring you to love, peace and happiness. I miss him and Louise Hay, they have influenced and inspired me for so many years, as you do too. I am still influenced by their spiritual guidance and this is probably why I still a student of ACIM, which has also changed my life for the better. I cannot afford to go to Edingburgh workshop now as spent too much on all the courses Hay house offers. Just joined Rebecca Campbell on a cosmic course. My concerns are it all seems so costly to get a book published; no idea how to self-publish yet, I trust in the universe, I know if my book is meant to help others it will get out into the world of those who need to read it. THANK YOU

    • David Hamilton on September 9, 2022 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks Linda. Good luck going forwards with your book. There’s ways to make the cost of self-publishing much less. You can publish on Amazon Createspace, for example. It’s relatively easy and when someone orders your book, Amazon print it right there and then and post it out to them.

      You can also get an ISBN from the ISBN agency. You usually have to buy a block of 10 of them, unless it’s changed recently. You can then fill out an online form to tell them which ISBN you’re using for your book. Once they receive that, you’re pretty much officially published – even if you haven’t printed the book. 🙂

      There’s lots of printers who do ‘Print on Demand’ where you don’t need to get hundreds printed. You can print half a dozen. I self published my first book in this way using (used to be Antony Rowe but they were bought by CPI). They can also deliver direct to wholesalers.

      I hope that helps. Getting it in bookshops like Waterstones simply involves emailing the individual shops with a photo and description of your book. If they want to stock it they will order through a wholesaler.

      Good luck with it all. 🙂

  9. Life's learning curve - David R Hamilton PHD on September 9, 2022 at 11:11 am

    […] thrive more as we do more. As I wrote in a blog a few weeks ago (Make a Start), you shine by stepping out into the light, not by polishing yourself in the […]

  10. Martina on March 21, 2024 at 8:09 am

    Thank you Dr Hamilton,
    I love your piece about being planted it came at the right time for me as do most of the quotes I have received.
    Let me tell you, I consider you to be very successful. You have reached out to so many people and you are a guiding light.
    You’re words have a powerful ripple effect and will continue to do so.
    Thank you,
    Continued success,

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