Overcoming Inertia

Inertia – it’s not just for physics anymore.

I’m having a bit of trouble with inertia. Had a bad week at work, and once I came to a mental stop after all the effort of the week, I found that I couldn’t get going again, not even to do things I liked. I was meant to do some writing this weekend. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Yet.

A mind at rest tends to stay at rest, but just as in physics, one in motion also tends to stay in motion. But the real trick is expending the energy to get back into motion. Mostly to motivate myself I’ve collected a few tidbits I picked up from various sources to apply to getting back on the writing horse.

Lessons from Depression: I need to remember my body is an instrument for writing as much as my pen. I find it too easy to neglect myself. Forget to eat. Take a shower. Brush my hair. But taking care of my body will make it easier to gear up my mental energy for another task. (P.S. Ericka, this also works if you’ve been working too long. You don’t do your best work with an instrument in less-than-optimal condition.)

Lessons from Psychology: I need to find the minimum enjoyable task. Instead of being overwhelmed into inaction, I can pick the smallest amount of work I can stand to do and just do that. Reduce my expectations and it’ll reduce the start-up energy required to overcome my inertia.

Lessons from Agile: Shoot for the minimum viable product. I need to direct my energy toward a task that matters, rather than wasting time on tasks that need to be done, but aren’t directly contributing to completing my work. While it may feel good to complete something, ANYTHING, unimportant organization or background tasks waste energy that could go toward getting the important parts done.

Lessons from Housecleaning: I can’t clean the whole house at once. On the same note, I can’t write the whole book at once. It’s like trying to clean the kitchen, and the living room, and the bathroom simultaneously. Focus on one room and resist the urge “pick up a few things” while I’m moving an item from one room to another.

Maybe the most important is to remember to do the thing I like. Treating my creative work like a chore is the fastest way to turn it into one. Sure, I’ll have the write the parts I don’t like as much eventually, but staring down that boring scene I feel no desire to write isn’t going to get me to write it any faster. Or better. Or give me anything other than a mediocre result.

All right. Back away from the blog post, Ericka. Any more self-pep-talk and you’re just wasting energy that could be going towards writing your novel.