I don’t get writer’s block. I know that might make some of my writer friends green with envy, but it’s true. I have so many ideas and characters rolling around in my head and so many novels already planned that it would take me about ten years before I ran out of old ideas. And that’s not counting any new ideas I might come up with in the future. But I do tend to get writer’s inertia between books.
Wait, writer’s inertia? You mean that draggy, reluctant feeling of taking forever to get yourself to start writing the next thing? Isn’t that the same thing as writer’s block?
I write because I love to write, because writing is like breathing to me. I can’t not write, whether it’s just a little ditty for myself or whether it’s an epic for publication. But recently when another writer friend asked me if I ever have a hard time sitting down to write, if it ever felt like pulling teeth just to put my butt in the chair and stick my fingers on the keyboard, I answered “Every day!”
Here’s a secret about being a writer. Writing is hard! Even though I love it, finding the will to sit down and grind out the words (because let’s face it, sometimes they flow and sometimes they grind) is a challenge. The only way to be a successful writer is to learn to work through writer inertia. Books don’t write themselves, after all.
So how do you do it? How do you break through the inertia to start that creative ball rolling in a direction where it will do some good? I’ve heard aspiring writers ask this question of long-term professional and bestselling authors at just about every conference I’ve ever been do. How do you keep going when the going is hard?
Of course, the flip answer is that you just have to force yourself to put words on a page, no matter how bad or boring or nonsensical they are. It’s the truth, but I often find that that isn’t the most reassuring answer. It seems too easy to work…and at the same time too hard to tackle. It’s the right answer, though, but I’ve always felt that a little more guidance was necessary.
Inertia is the force that makes it hard to get started from a place of stillness. It takes more energy to start an object moving than it does to keep it moving once it’s in motion. This goes for writing as well. It’s easier to write big, chunky word counts when you’re already in the habit of writing smaller chunks on a regular basis. It’s harder to start a novel if you’re beginning from an utter standstill. The trick is to never stop writing.
Most of the top-tier writers that I know or have listened to say that they write every day. They write something, no matter what it is. I do my very best to emulate this (and I come super close) because I think it is the answer. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on your next novel or rewriting bits and pieces of your old one, whether you’re jotting down your thoughts “Dear Diary” style or typing out a blog post or two. Heck, to me it doesn’t even matter if you’re writing several long Facebook posts or leaving a note for a family member to pick up ice cream on the way home. The key to being able to kick through inertia is to never stop writing.
You’d be amazed what you can do one you get those juices flowing. I know I’ve caught some flak for it in the past, but one of my favorite kinds of things to write to jump-start any creative process is fan fiction. Borrowing other people’s characters for a few seconds is a great way to make sure something gets written. It’s my equivalent of jotting something down on the back of a napkin.
Jotting something down on the back of a napkin, by the way, might just turn out to be your means of breaking through. In fact, are you stuck? Give it a try and tell me what you think.
Inertia (or downright blockage) is just one of those job hazards that we all experience. The only way out is through. But a better way out is to never really get in the hole to begin with. If you do find yourself in that hole, though, without having written for days, weeks, months, or years, take it easy on yourself and write a few short paragraphs about something fun to warm up. Once that ball starts rolling, once you’ve gotten over your inertia, I bet you’ll find it much easier to get the job done and you’ll be much more likely to keep it going.
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