Guest blog: Deborah Blake on maladaptive intertia

Author Deborah Blake

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.

18 Comments on “Guest blog: Deborah Blake on maladaptive intertia”

  1. Hey Deborah, popped over from your blog. I love this post cause I have said ‘maladaptive inertia’. I am more so glad to know that I am not alone in this. Wonderful post 🙂

    1. Hi Toni! Glad you like the post. Sorry you have MI 🙂 One of the best ways to get over it is to read something inspiring…I recommend Alex’s books! (Tee hee–notice the way I worked that subtle plug in there? Man, am I good or what?)

  2. I suffer from this daily but have never had a proper name for it until now! Thanks for the motivation. I think I’ll go write something…

    just as soon as I check my email again?

  3. So that is what I have! I knew there had to be a legitimate reason I have been ignoring my WIP. Now to get a bag of Hershey Kisses and bang out a few pages.

    1. Judy–I think you’ll like the paranormal romance. Believe it or not, there are witches in it 🙂

      Then tell all your friends about it, and say TAG YOU’RE IT!

  4. Ooh, I use that incentive system all the time. “No social media until you grade 10 more exams!”

    But my sister and I could easily use the “tag, you’re it” method, too.

    Love it. Thanks!

  5. I love that “new affliction” but an inner voice wont allow to much procrastination how much I try. I would love you to visit as I honored you and just one of your many moving poems from a gift I got at Christmas. “The Witches Handbook” for 2012 I love it more than I can express…I have also bought your book…”Witchcraft on a ShoeString” awaiting its arrival any day now… The art to accompany your poem is mine…I am very happy to have found you and I will visit again….♥Debi akaprudence puddleduck

  6. Cool term! MI – I like that. I have been suffering more from it since being out of sync for 3 weeks with that stupid sinus infection. But it is getting better. Writing sprints with others who suffer from the same malady is also a great – Tag your it! kind of thing.


    1. I’m just getting into doing writing sprints with a couple of author pals on Twitter #1k1hr and finding it amazingly helpful in moving me past my own Maladaptive Inertia!

  7. Maladaptive. What a great word. Does that make the inertia that keeps us going when we continue writing “BENAdaptive?” Like BENEfit? Habit is the best thing–routine. But I’ve noticed that if I have one good day, the next follows more easily and if I have two, the next is best, whether it’s writing or controlling my food intake. I don’t have to wait the 3 weeks they say it takes to form a habit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *