First, decide you’re going to bake a cake (write a novel). To start, make a cup of coffee to drink while you conceptualize what you’re going to bake (write).
Come up with a story idea from your concept. Collect some ingredients – characters, setting, initial incident. Start mixing them together (writing).
Realize that you’re missing some ingredients (like motivation, background, and other characters). Make some coffee and hunt for the missing ingredients.
Coming up with the missing ingredients, you add them in, and then decide to make something different (a variation of the concept that just blows your mind with excitement).
Find and add more ingredients (setting, characters, motivation, story twists).
Realize that you forgot to turn the stove on (yeah, you overlooked some huge aspect and now have a gap in the story).
Go to turn on the stove but then stop to pet the cat, and then feed the cat. Smell the kitty litter, and clean it. Also notice that the floor is dirty. Turn on the robot vacuum.
Monitor the robot vacuum, cursing it as it goes around and around a piece of dirt you want it to pick up that you refuse to pick up because that’s why you have a robot sweeper.
Decide to check the mail to get away from the madness. Come back and make coffee, go through the mail (why do they keep sending you this junk?) and also look for something to eat because you’re hungry (even though you just ate, like, three hours ago, but, hey, writing is a strenuous mental activity that drains energy (something that non-writers will never understand!)).
Discover that there’s nothing in the house that you want to eat. Decide to make a shopping list, and then go to the store. (While you’re out, you’ll also stop and fill the car’s gas tank and do any other errands (because you’re efficient).)
Because you’re now too hungry to return home and make something with the stuff bought at the store, go somewhere and buy something to eat right now.
Return home, put away the groceries. Make and drink coffee while thinking about your cake (the novel), nosh on a snack item that you purchased, pick up the stuff that the robot vacuum missed, pet the cat (because he’s following you around and underfoot), give the cat treats (to buy him off), and then —
Brainstorm! Make the frosting because this cake with that frosting would be fantastic (in other words, write an ending because you think it’s the perfect ending).
Remember, you never did turn on the oven, damn it. You missed a huge step.
Realize, this is a layer cake. And you can’t put the frosting on because there’s nothing to put it on.
But you really like that frosting, so you go ahead and make it (write it up) and set it aside for use later, and then — epiphany! — decide every layer will be a different flavor of cake, with a different icing. It’s not really a cake, but a torte, you decide, and then go off to the computer to jump on the Internet to research tortes and cakes.
Check your email. Catch up on Facebook (like, post, and share), Pinterest and other social media, blogs, the news (he said what?) and sports (or fashion). Play some games (because, without acknowledging it, you feel stressed, and games — going for a new high score, or beating others on an online game — gives you instant gratification and validates you).
Turn on the television. Surf channels. Shake your head at the things on television these days. Wonder if some of the actors you’re seeing in the re-runs are still alive. Turn the television off.
Then, oh, it’s late. You’re tired. Another cup of coffee is needed but you’re too tired for that, and it’s too late (where’d the time go?). The rest of the family will be home soon, and there are the things you’re supposed to do with friends and family, going to movies, dinner, cut grass, wash car, clothes, dishes —
Well, you’ll continue tomorrow, you tell yourself. This cake (or torte) is going to be a masterpiece. It’ll blow people’s minds. It’s just so exciting, but there’s so much to do. There are more ingredients to collect, and then it all must be baked, frosted, and put together —
It’s so real, you can see, smell, and taste it. You sit for a while, absorbing the wonder of the cake (or torte) that you imagine.
Tomorrow, you tell yourself, tomorrow will be different. You don’t want any half-baked cake.
Right, you’ll begin by making coffee and listing all the ingredients, and maybe brainstorming all the steps that you need to do to complete this masterpiece, like turning on the oven. Yes, that’ll be the first thing that you do.