Friday, March 19, 2010

March Forward Past Inertia

Inertia - it is a problem when getting underway on a writing project just as it is when wanting to lay a new floor or build a bookshelf or assemble a bike. But where does it come from and why? I have a sneaking suspicion it is related to procrastination, but I suspect it is even more closely related to procrastiantion's mother and father - Doubt and Self-Doubt.  A deep-seated fear that asks us in the recesses of our mind the daming and depressing question:  Why bother?  At its worse it can be paralyzing, and at its best it challenges us if we take a blowback, angry, determined response, so that perhaps it is not so much the devilish voice in our head that keeps us from our work, but our reaction to that voice.

Frankly, as a young writer, I was told by many more adults than not that I would never be a writer, and that I should choose another career path. But Robert Frost's poem "The Road Less Taken" spoke volumes to me and said it was all right to take the path I was already on as a kid in junior high school.  I had adults in every arena of my life urging me to go into accounting, plastics, mechanics, electronics, even teaching, and I did go into teaching but with the clear discussion with myself that I do so to support my writing life. Even then in college as in high school, I ran into resistance; in fact, I was told by a professor in my first college creative writing class that I should not only drop his class but think about another career path. That I would never be a writer, certainly not a publishe writer and best I could do in his class was make a C.  That only made me more determined; I took the right attitude and took it as a challenge, and I worked diligently at craft. In fact, after college, I decided to give it a year and work at nothing else to perfect my writing. That year turned into four years...four lean, hungry years which to this day I consider my self-imposed PhD time wherein I put in the time and effort to get better as a writer and in doing so I wrote a lot of novels that garnered some thousand or so rejections from others who kept telling me I would never succeed at this business or profession or roulette wheel called a writing career.

I would not take no for an answer not even from the experts--agents, editors, publishers.  So why should I take NO and doubts from within my own head?  What did I know?  I have to convince myself each time I go forth to do a scene that I am good enough and worthy enough to be considered a novelist, even after all my successes thanks to inertia and self doubts that come I am convinced as a prerequisite to an artistic mind. We may choose to be artistic crafts-people but that does not quell or kill that doubting Thomas inside our psyche that asks in a sneer, "Just who the hell do you think you are?" and "Do you really think anyone truly wants to read a word you have to say?" and "One day someone will kick your door in and expose you for the fraud you are."

We can't give in to such nonsense; in fact, we must turn those thoughts right around to read: "I think I am a fadt, I KNOW this. And there are people anxious to hear what I have to say most assuredly. And no one can call me a fraud as I work extremely hard to make my product the best it can be, so Self-Doubt get thee behind me!  I have work to do.  And in the doing comes the joy of writing and all the negatives fade to nothing, and you are free to work thanks to your proper response to the nonsense that wants to control your sense. Don't let the devils of inertia beat you down; instead beat them down. But beware as they never ever quite go silent.

Rob Walker
Killer Instinct, first in the Instinct Series available now at
Name my Next Novel contest continues -


carl brookins said...

Inertia is just a word. Like writer's block (two words) If you are gonna take a professional attitude toward your fiction writing, I believe you have to ignore such trivialities and get on with it. Write to deadlines. Work on more than one book or project. You wanna be a writer, write.

I find, in spending copious amounts of time (when I'm not writing) such as attendance at conventions, a lot of authors whine about not having enough time to write. About how their schedules of events and family life and other distractions are keeping them from their chosen calling, writing novels or short stories or....

I don't believe it. If you feel blocked in a story, go do something else. Work on a different story. There are a million reasons or excuses for not writing, but know that writing is, in part, using certain muscles, and the more you exercise, the more efficient and better you will become. Good writers work at it all the time. It's called discipline.

It isn't called writer's block or inertia.

Rob said...

Always an interesting take on things, Carl. Too bad we don't all have your discipline or that all of us are wired so well. I can always count on you to kick my ass. By the way, not all folks writing can write to a deadline nor do they want to; many rivers to the ocean and many a great writer has gone through difficult periods such as F.Scott Fitzgerald, Wm. Styron, even Woody Allen and me.

Anonymous said...

Rob: My problem is not writer's block either - it's just 'not in the mood to work' and it's worse in spring and summer. LOL.

Glad to have company - workin' onit!
Jackie Griffey