Deborah Blake is the author of six nonfiction books and the paranormal romance Witch Ever Way You Can, as well as the excellent short story “Dead and (Mostly) Gone,” found in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction, along with my story, “Draw Down.” Deborah has been kind enough to write about a condition every author has, or will, experience.
(And catch my guest blog on her site, along with a giveaway, here.)
You’ve probably heard of “inertia.” It is actually a physics term that refers to the fact that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. You probably haven’t heard of “maladaptive inertia,” however. That’s because I made it up. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. In fact, I’m guessing you’ve suffered from it once or twice, without even knowing it. Allow me to ‘splain.
I came up with the term maladaptive inertia years ago to describe the condition when it is just easier to keep doing more-or-less nothing (play one more game of solitaire on the computer, watch just one more show on TV) than it is to make yourself get moving on the things you actually NEED to do. So you waste lots of time and energy that you don’t have, and end up with that same old to-do list staring you in the face. Hence the “maladaptive.” This is not a time spent resting and rejuvenating, it serves no useful purpose, you know you’re doing it and that it isn’t good…and yet…there you are. Still sitting on your arse. Maladaptive inertia.
Admittedly, it makes for a good excuse. “Sorry I didn’t write that blog post for you, I had maladaptive inertia.” “I can’t take out the garbage, honey, I have maladaptive inertia.” Feel free to borrow it. [As long as you give me credit for coming up with it. I’m going to write a book about it. You know—as soon as I get over my maladaptive inertia.]
For writers, maladaptive inertia can be particularly tough. I had to put aside the novel I’d started in November, to deal with the December rush at my day job (I run an artists’ cooperative, so the holiday season is crazy time). Once the rush was over, I intended to jump right back into working on the writing. But I had…you guessed it. The truth is; it is a whole lot easier to KEEP writing than it is to START writing. Or to start up again.
So how do you get over maladaptive inertia, and get back to your writing (or taking out the garbage, or whatever it is you are supposed to be doing that is useful, rewarding, and necessary)?
Here are a couple of the things that work best for me:
Keep plugging away at it. Don’t say, “Well, I’ve tried for three days to get back to my writing (or whatever). It hasn’t worked, so I give up.” Keep kicking yourself until you JUST DO IT.
Have your friends help you. When I am trying to get back into exercising, a friend and I often call each other up and say, “Okay—I just did 20 minutes. Tag, you’re it.” There is nothing like a friend to kick your butt into gear when you can’t do it on your own.
Set rules and rewards. For instance, when I am trying to get back into the writing zone, I’ll tell myself – no Twitter until you’ve written SOMETHING. Or, you don’t get a glass of wine until you’ve done at least three pages. (I find that one particularly motivating. But you can substitute chocolate, or whatever you like, such as watching your favorite TV show.)
Mostly, I find that it works to just get started on the writing, no matter what it takes. Because once you’ve started something, it is easier to keep working on it. Remember that other rule of physics: A body in motion is likely to stay in motion.
So put down the remote, walk away from the internet, or do whatever it is you have to do to break your pattern of maladaptive inertia. You can do it! I just wrote five pages. Tag—you’re it.
Thanks to Deborah for sharing her insight. You can find out more about her at her website.