“Inciting inertia” — sounds confusing and contradictory, doesn’t it? By definition, something inert is: 1) lacking in the power to move; 2) very slow to move or act: sluggish; 3) deficient in active properties.
Considering all this, any plan to enliven inertia sounds almost doomed to failure. And yet, to be honest, inertia is an all-too-familiar foe — and one that we have to wrestle with and overcome if we’re going to make any real progress with our writing projects.
Sure, it’s great when we wake up in the morning, supercharged and ready to tackle the page. Or when that flash of brilliance hits us and we are off and running — and working overtime to keep up with it. And when we polish up a paragraph that really sparkles, the energy unleashed can be amazing.
But, let’s face it, moments like these are memorable and precious precisely because they don’t come along all that often. Day to day, we’re more likely to encounter inertia than to be struck by inspiration. This is true of most creative disciplines and why persistence and emotional stamina are so essential to survival and success.
Back to inertia. Just writing the word makes me feel sluggish: It’s like a balloon when all the air fizzles out of it. Limp. Lacking in energy. Languishing. Lackluster. Lazy. Better get off this train — it’s stalling.
What to do, what to do? When inertia invades and drains the energy out of us, how can we respond most productively? Here are a few strategies that I’ve found fruitful:
As a first step, see if you can pinpoint the source. Sometimes a lack of energy can be traced to something as simple as lack of sleep. When I don’t get enough rest, it’s very hard for me to get my mental motor going and concentration is a problem. So, if I’m really tired, I’ve found that the best approach is to tackle a relatively undemanding part of a project rather than trying to wrestle with something very challenging. I focus on being as productive as I can and on getting a better night’s rest so I can be fresher the next day.
Use the “15-minute Rule:” This invaluable advice comes from my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert’s Success Hotline (973.743.4690) — and it’s saved many a soul. As Rob often says, “It’s the start that stops most people.” If you find yourself stalled, then simply commit to working on something for 15 minutes and after that time, give yourself permission to stop. More often than not, you’ll keep going.
Play around. In my experience, one of the best ways to outfox inertia is to shift into play mode. You can try mind mapping, for example, just free associating and jotting down whatever comes into your head using different colored pens. I have a pack of rainbow-colored index cards and sometimes I jot a few sentences on them instead of using a piece of paper or my computer. Some people find that doodling loosens them up. Whatever path you choose, playing on the page can often give you just the energy jolt you need to get moving and creating.
Are there any techniques you’ve found helpful when inertia deflates you? I’d love to have you share them as we all write on.