Writing Inertia

“A body in motion remains in motion unless it is acted on by an external force. If the body is at rest it remains at rest.”— Newton’s First Law of Motion

Inertia and Writer’s Block

This law applies equally to artistic ventures, like writing. Let’s take resting. Say it’s time to start writing, but you’re comfortable on the couch (or in bed) and don’t really want to get up. Well, the longer you stay reclines, the harder it will be to haul your butt over to the computer. More energy needs to be put into the system to overcome the inertia of an object at rest.

I encountered this very problem when I switched my writing time from mornings to evenings. The very reason why mornings worked so well was that once I was awake (and caffeinated with java), there was no other option for me but write.

Yet, when I went nocturnal with my writing endeavors, there were a multitude of activities to distract me. Most of which could be accomplished from the comfort of my cushy couch. Night after night, I intended to write—I even announced this to the wife—yet I remained rooted on the cushions. My inertia was too powerful to overcome.

The solution was to find a specific event in the evening, one that came about the same time each and every night, and plan to write immediately afterward. The idea was to keep moving before inertia could set in. (A rolling stone gathers no moss). For me this was right after dinner and putting my little one to bed.

It worked. No matter how tired I was during the afternoon, I perked up when I sat in front of the keyboard. My body was trained to produce words. It only took me sitting down and making the time.

Inertia and Word Count

Once you get rolling, you can’t stop. The trick is to keep the pace up. Often I glance at the clock and think, I could take a break. But I know that once I step off the writing train, it will pull away from the station and I’ll have to sprint to get back on. I think this is why Write or Die is so popular. Never heard of it? It’s a program that turns the screen red if you stop writing for too long. I’ve never tried it myself. My own inner guilt meter does the trick.

Inertia and Distractions

The same inertia that keeps you writing once you start, also works with distractions. Let’s say you want to check your twitter stream or email or blogs. Just for a minute. Then you answer a few mentions or comments. Pretty soon a few minutes has turned into fifteen or forty-five. It’s inertia again, taking you for a ride. Unfortunately all those words you pour out into emails and tweets won’t add to the word count of your manuscript.

So listen to good old Isaac. Get that inertia going on the right activity: writing. If you don’t, then the very same inertia will pin you down and keep you from your goal, namely putting words down on paper.

Tim Kane


About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a young adult fiction writer.
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9 Responses to Writing Inertia

  1. October Daniels says:

    Fantastic post, Tim! I couldn’t agree more. I always find sitting down to write when I have so many other things occupying my attention to be surprisingly difficult, but once I finally have sat down in front of a blank page, it feels impossible to stop.

    Nice to know it isn’t just me annoying my wife by telling her that I intend to do before I get swept away by the night and tell myself I’ll get around to it the next day. And the next day. And the next day.

    And here I am, getting swept up in laziness inertia (love the term) writing this…

  2. LMAO, Tim 🙂 Seriously though, I think you’ve hit on something significant here. I’ll call it the Pavlovian response and I 100 percent agree with you. Scheduling writing for a specific time of the day puts it into your daily biorhythms and is effective. The trick — as you know — is finding your witching hour and holding the focus.

    • Exactly. I finally found my time at night and it works great. I get in, write, and then get out. My body is just conditioned to write a full speed for about an hour to an hour and a half. I supposed I’d have to come up with a whole new routine if I were successful enough to write full time. But that’s a problem I wouldn’t mind having.

  3. Indeed that is when it gets challenging. For me, it breaks into three times during the day for writing sprints: first thing in the morning, before anything else; then late morning/early afternoon; then, like you, i love the quiet of nighttime scribbling. Just do it! Get a job that involves writing. Be an editor, pr, journalist, speechwriter, whatever. There are lots of jobs in the craft. Be like NIKE, baby!

  4. Diane Kleiman says:

    Fabulous post. I can’t tell you how much this article has helped me to focus on writing my book. I had started doubting whether I had the capability to complete this project. However, your article made me realize I wasn’t alone in the difficulties I’ve been experiencing. I’ve started to relax and as such, the words are starting to flow on the pages. Thank you so very much for these inspirational words of wisdom. You have helped me more than you will ever know.

  5. Dlori says:

    Please continue writing these articles and giving advice to novice writers like me as well as sharing your own personal writing experiences and challenges. I can use all the help I can get. Thanks again.

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