Here’s Stephen Harrigan (talking about his book, Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas) and a reproduction of one of Botticelli’s paintings of St. Augustine. (Like almost all writers, St. Augustine, too, wondered about the problem of how to begin. )
In my experience writing books, it isn’t just a “resistance” thing or a “perfectionist” thing or a fear thing, it’s more about research and wondering if you’ve done enough of it. Research becomes your way of procrastinating, because, let’s face it, research is just more fun than writing. (Me, personally, I became a professional writer so I could be a professional reader.)
Steven Johnson says the answer is to “research as you go”:
Email and social media and games are obvious distractions. In my experience, the more subtle threat – particularly for non-fiction writers – comes via the eminently reasonable belief that you’re not ready to start writing, because you haven’t finished your research yet.
And here’s David McCullough:
There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing. When I began, I thought that the way one should work was to do all the research and then write the book. In time I began to understand that it’s when you start writing that you really find out what you don’t know and need to know.
I began to poke around, and the more I found, the less I knew.
“Why don’t you assume you’ve written your book already — and all you have to do now is find it?”