Most people think I spend my days energetically churning out content—blog posts, articles and chapters. Most days I do. In fact, I have a blog post to write at least four or five days of the week 52 weeks of the year, and really I should be writing six posts or more per week every week of the year. On top of that, I have posts I write for other sites on a monthly or regular basis, like this one and this one. And I self-publish the occasional book, not to mention writing traditionally published books now and then—like the one I finished on deadline in 2011 and the one I will turn in this coming June. I also try to write for magazines once in a while.
All these deadlines—self-imposed or otherwise—can cause me to feel quite a bit of overwhelm at times, especially since I have client work to complete, coaching sessions to conduct and speaking presentations to prepare as well. That overwhelm manifests most often as inertia, the sense that I don’t have the energy to start on a writing project. With so much to do, I feel weighted down, unable to sit up straight in my chair or to get my fingers moving on the keyboard.
Other days, for seemingly no reason at all, inertia hits. Maybe I’m overtired or overworked. Maybe I’m bored or uninspired. Maybe a project feels hard or scary. Whatever the reason, I feel as if I simply can’t drum up the energy to begin writing. You might call this inertia “writer’s block,” but I don’t ever lack for things to write about or to say.
I admit that in both these situations I sit in front of the computer and do just about anything other than what I need to do. I read email. I look at posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Pinterest, and I may write status updates. I follow links and read what others have written. I might pin my own posts to Pinterest or fix problems on my blogs. (Some of this I can claim falls under the heading of “promotion,” and, indeed, it does, but really I’m just stalled out.) The day goes by, and not much real work gets done.
How to Overcome Your Inertia and Get Your Projects Written
The less I do, the more overwhelmed I feel. That makes it even harder for me to get going the next day. Not a good scenario.
How do I solve this negative cycle? Here are 10 ways to power through inertia no matter what causes it. Try one or more of them, and you will surely find the energy to get your writing projects started—and finished.
- Just start. Like the Nike ad, “Just do it.” The ultimate solution to this problem is to begin writing. This tactic has always produced results for me, even if I began slowly.
- Allow for a slow start. Words might come out like molasses at first: dense, sticky and slow. It might take twice as long as usual to write the same amount. It’s okay. Just get some words out on paper.
- Require speed. Once you get going, set an alarm and do some speed writing. Force yourself to write as fast as possible with no editing for 10 minutes or 20 minutes with no stopping. At that point, you can fall into inertia briefly. Your reward is 5 minutes of staring at your Twitter stream or reading a few pages of a book. Then, set the alarm again and off you go.
- Utilize a deadline. Yes, you might actually have a deadline to meet. Put it to use. If not, create one of your own. Or initiate a new deadline. You must write 500 words before you can break for lunch. Your first draft must be complete before the day is over. You have to turn the piece in or publish it on your blog by 8 a.m. tomorrow. And stick to that deadline—not matter what. (Yes, stay up late or get up early. You will survive if you lose a bit of sleep. Or, if you can’t function without sleep, don’t watch TV, or skip a day of exercise. Find a way.)
- Move your body. Get up from the computer and do something else. Go for a walk, ride your bike, take a run, or take a yoga class. Then come back to your computer and, without opening your email or checking your social networks, start writing. (Your brain might tell you that doing something else is taking time away from necessary work, but moving your body will generate energy and remove that sense of inertia.)
- Don’t write; speak. If you can’t get yourself to write, get out a recorder, your iPhone, a program like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, or use a teleseminars line and begin speaking your writing project. Then have someone transcribe the recording for you. Edit this document.
- Instill accountability. Tell someone you will show him or her your work in an hour or two. A deadline offers accountability, but if you have told someone you will turn in your work, this can make a huge difference. (This is why blogging a book works so well: your readers are waiting for your next installment.)
- Compartmentalize. Stop thinking about all the different things you need to do. Pick one and focus only on that project. Get it done, or get part of it done. Then go on to the next thing.
- Prioritize. Many people call this “putting out fires.” Pick the most important project—maybe the one that has the closest deadline—and do it first. Get it done and go on to the next one.
- Start small and build up. Choose a small project as a warm up. For example, write a 300-word blog post and publish it. Then go on to a bigger project, like a 1,000-word article or a 2,000 word chapter. In this way you get something out of the way while getting your creative juices and energy flowing.
Once you start churning out some of your work, you will feel so much better— more energetic and less overwhelmed! Nothing succeeds like success. You’ll get on a roll…and keep on rolling. No more inertia!
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Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net