Inertia and Work Habits

I just realized that a more appropriate name for my blog is “Working in Fits and Starts,” as my interests extend beyond writing, and as I tend to pursue them all in fits and starts.  On again, off again. Sometimes, say with music,  I maintain a practice schedule–for a while. But overall the only thing regular about how I work is the fits and starts part.

But why highlight that aspect of working, rather than the content or outcome? Maybe because working in fits and starts needs a good look. Among other things, it goes against all reasonable counsel.   If you write, practice a musical instrument, or take some step toward community building at the same time every day, it becomes, over time, easy to settle in.  In the grove, you feel less stress. In the grove, you accomplish more.

Think of starting an activity in terms of inertia, Newton’s first law of motion.  “An object at rest remains at rest unless acted on by an outside force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force.”

It takes effort to switch from lounging to acting. It takes effort to switch from one activity to another.

Habits seem to make this shift easier. They don’t have to be an everything day sort of thing.  Thursday Night Writers, a group I participated in for years in Sonoma County, meet only once a week, and yet, though we arrived  exhausted from full days, we settled easily into writing. We had a routine. After a brief check in, someone offered a writing prompt. We took up our pens, wrote, and then read.

Remember that inertia works two ways.  It takes effort to start, and it takes effort to stop. So once you get started, it’s easy to stay going.  That’s the upside of inertia.  The ease of continuing has a downside, too, if you’re like me.  I am, for example, at this moment getting behind with my day because it’s easier to keep writing (and rewriting), than to stop. Once I get started I also find it difficult to stop practicing or stop imagining one more way to engage neighbors. I need an outside force. Perhaps a timer with an annoying ring that goes off in another room, so I have to change direction to switch it off.

May the force be with you.

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