On a recent trip to New York with my daughter for a dance trip, she took a Bollywood class with a very sagely instructor. (See story of that trip here.) I’ve been thinking about something that teacher said recently. The class was high energy and she told the girls to push through their fatigue. She explained to them that energy creates energy and if you stop when you’re tired, it will be harder to start again.
She was basically explaining to them Newton’s first law of motion, which describes inertia.
A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted on by a net external force.
But, this law doesn’t just apply to physical objects. It’s mental as well. I made my pre-New Year’s resolution to finish a stack of books next to my bed and spend a ton of time reading before my holiday break was over. When I finally cracked open the manuscript for my next book, a sequel to The Travelers, and realized I hadn’t written a word in over 10 days. That’s very unusual for me. It’s not as if I haven’t been writing. (I write a blog a day, typically.) I just haven’t been writing my book. I’m about 2/3 finished with the first draft. But, I’ve been 2/3 finished for several months now. I knew I’d have to restart again at the beginning. I barely remember what I had for breakfast, let alone what I wrote 10 days ago. The idea of made me want to close my laptop.
This is how inertia works. So what’s the external force to put you fingers back in motion? People are different and everyone’s writing process is different. I doubt any one thing will work for everyone. But, here are some tips I came across when trying to overcome my book writing inertia.
10 Tips for Overcoming Writing Inertia
- Free write. Basically, write to get the creative juices flowing. This means just write anything. Don’t stop and think, just keep writing.
- Ease back in. Re-start slowly by writing for a half hour one day and then 45 minutes the next day, etc
- Try something new. Change where you work. Find a new location that inspires you. Maybe a bright room in front of a window. Try a new style of working. Maybe switch from a computer to a notebook.
- Clear away the clutter. This means mentally and physically. Get rid of the distractions. If your house is noisy, put on those noise cancelling headphones or maybe some soothing classical music.
- Set limits or create a deadline. Push yourself with some sense of urgency. Essentially, give yourself a goal.
- Be positive. Remind yourself why you love to write, what it means to you, why it brings you happiness. Maybe even make a list. Get yourself excited about doing it again.
- Get support. If you have a family or roommates or anyone else who tends to distract you from your goal, even if completely unintentionally, let them know you need help getting over your writing inertia. Ask them to support your writing time, help you not procrastinate. Ask them not to ask you to help you avoid temptation (i.e, don’t ask you to come down and watch that TV show.)
- Figure it out. Determine what’s causing your inertia. Is it distractions? Is it too many ideas? Are you feeling a lack of creativity? Once you figure out the cause, it’s much easier to find a solution.
- Read for inspiration. Reading begets writing. The two are linked. People who love to read, often also love to write. If you read more, you can get inspired to write more.
- Keep a schedule. Set a time every day to write and don’t blow it off or make excuses. Write during that time, even if you just write down random thoughts or ideas.
Which one of these worked for me?
Personally, I like the deadline suggestion. Something in me needs a time table or a goal to strive for, thus my pre-New Years resolution. However, in practice, mostly it’s just sheer willpower and a just setting aside time. If I have a set time and a quiet space to write, I’ll write and write and write until the wee hours of the morning. Like Newton said, once I get into the writing motion it’s hard to stop. And the force that typically stops me is sleep. Eventually, my body requires it.
But everyone is different, like I said. And what worked for me, may not work for someone else. I think the key is awareness and determination. If you want to find a way to get over your writing inertia, you will.