Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part.
Aaron Sorkin is the academy-award-winning screenwriter behind The Social Network among other academy-nominated films like Moneyball and Molly’s Game. He’s been writing now for decades and his accolade stretches back to such hits as The American President and A Few Good Men. You’d imagine that someone like Mr. Sorkin would have all the confidence he would need to dive into a new project, but check out one of his most famous quotes on writing:
“I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says, "You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, giftless. I'm not your agent and I'm not your mommy, I'm a white piece of paper, you wanna dance with me?" and I really, really don't. I'll go peaceable-like.”
Sound like what you feel like right now as you try to crank up your MBA application process? You’re in good company. Putting pen to paper is often the best way to get the machine turning. Even if you aren’t sure exactly where you’re headed with an idea or how to organize everything, just the physical act of sitting and typing out some ideas can stimulate progress.
Perfection is the enemy of good enough.
Essays are perfected over time through the drafting and revision process. They don’t have to be perfect from the outset. Making matters challenging, MBA applicants are usually pretty organized people. You have succeeded in school and you have succeeded at work. Being successful typically means you are a good time manager and process-driven. But you have never embarked upon applying to b-school before and, like Sorkin, the blank pages of essays are staring you down. You think you can’t get started until you have everything sorted.
One very simple thing to remember is, you can always start over.
There are millions of trashed files and balled-up pieces of paper in waste bins out there from the first drafts of hopeful MBA applicants. Often we must wring out the bad before we can get to the good. Starting over is far easier than starting up. And if you find yourself battling writers block, try beginning with a personal statement. Write out the reasons why you wanted to go to business school in the first place. Write down your values. Just. Start. Writing. Nobody knows your story better than you do and you can whittle it down or pull out the gems as you go along. Just like with the adcoms, who want to know the why behind the what, starting with why is a great benefit for the applicant as well. Ask yourself why are you really applying to business school. Simon Sinek in his best-selling book, Start With Why, gives some other good advice:
“For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs. It’s not “integrity,” it’s “always do the right thing.” It’s not “innovation,” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.” Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea - we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation.”
Approaching your story in a fresh way like this can knock the rust off and just like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, once you’re moving, it’s unlikely you’ll freeze up again.