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Seeking Good Inertia

It’s the most common of clichés: “Inertia is a powerful force.” Mostly we tend to think of it in terms of exercise. Who hasn’t been in a decent groove with a workout routine, only to have it interrupted by vacation or illness or simply too much work? Then we try to get back into the routine, which is absurdly difficult. We vow to ourselves that we will never let it lapse again—but we do, of course. Life happens.

I’ve been reflecting on inertia as I realize this is my first blog post since December. When I began my blog in December 2015, I had intended to post once a week. I quickly reduced the frequency to three times a month, and that rhythm served me well through most of 2016. I had a few interruptions due to vacation, and then I slowed down a bit more, until I was doing one a month for the last quarter. Even that would have been acceptable to me if I had kept it up, but then I let it drop entirely. I had my reasons—the holidays, multiple visits from relatives, trips—but I let myself down. I didn’t keep my commitment. And the blog wasn’t the only place I wasn’t writing.

Roy Peter Clark, author of Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces, says this about inertia:

We learn in science class that inertia is a physical force that manifests itself in two ways. Things that are still—not moving—will stay still until acted upon by outside forces. . . . But inertia also describes the way an object in motion stays in motion until some external force slows or stops it. For the purposes of writing, I call the first kind “bad inertia” because it describes inactive writers who can’t get moving. The other kind is “good inertia,” because once you get started you can keep things rolling. No writing creates no writing. Some writing creates more writing. (pg. 12)

In order to get started (again), Clark says, we must make exploration a way of life, eventually seeing the world as “a storehouse of story ideas.” We must be curious, and write something down. Eventually, "good inertia" will take over.

Have you struggled with “bad inertia”? How did you break yourself out of it? Or, if you are maintaining “good inertia” with your writing, what is your routine?

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