Feeling a little sluggish this morning?
It’s not your fault. You can blame the Universe.
As a big mass of matter, it’s our natural tendency to remain in a state of rest unless otherwise compelled to change that state by force.
When in bed, that force will often be Time: a lack of it, manifesting in the form of an alarm clock ringing.
Inertia is a physical principle, but it also applies to our mental state.
What people often call “writer’s block” is simply creative inertia.
The energy it takes to get something moving from a dead standstill is far greater than the energy required to keep it moving.
So whether it’s your next big renovation project, the fitness plan that was supposed to start two weeks ago, or another blank page to fill with words, give it a big ol’ push today.
Then tomorrow, you just have to keep the ball rolling.
Not so long ago, writing was my greatest fear.
A monthly article seemed too big a commitment, let alone a daily blog.
How could there be that many things to write about?
What if I ran out of ideas?
What would happen when I had nothing to say?
In the 355 days since this blog began, I’ve run out of ideas many times. There was rarely much in my notes that seemed interesting enough to write about.
The stress or distractions of my life often threw up a great wall between the muse and me. The glowing white screen before my eyes frequently mirrored an empty expanse behind them.
The pressure to write something meaningful or entertaining prevented me from writing anything at all.
On those days, I had no choice but to settle for writing about nothing and simply write. And before you know it, something was written.
Just like today.
Kids are terrible at drawing, but most of us don’t get much better.
For over 65,000 years, Humans have painted the walls of our caves with plant blood, scratching in the stories of the animals nearby; where the deer drink; where the big cats lurk.
And for 63,350 of them, nobody gave a damn about perspective.
After all, it’s not like you get long to practice art when you’re halfway between starving to death and eaten alive.
Then one day about 600 years ago, some bloke finally figured out how to properly draw perspective, and before you could say “vanishing point,” everyone was at it.
What takes most kids just a few years to pick up — and less if we try — took dozens of millennia for Humanity to learn.
But just because we can all learn to do it now doesn’t make it any easier than it ever was.
We’ve just got 150,000+ years of lessons to lean on.
Mondays aren’t bad. Mondays aren’t good.
They’re terribly, awfully, misunderstood.
Monday’s the start. A turn of the page.
The curtain drawn, as a new act takes the stage.
There was a big, stubborn rock sitting on my desk this morning.
It took me 15 minutes to move it off, by writing, “Get the ball rolling.”
Rolling the ball off the line is the official way to start a game of football. Once the ball is moving, the game has begun.
We use this phrase at work too, where it means we’ve talked a project to death and must begin the game of creating.
The implication is that it takes a bit of effort to get the ball rolling, but things get easier once momentum is on our side.
Inertia is difficult to overcome — especially if we’re making something new. But once we put in the energy to start, it’s tough to stop.
Fortunately, all it takes to get the ball rolling is a little nudge in the right direction.
It doesn’t have to be new or shiny.
It doesn’t have to be interesting or original.
It doesn’t have to be exciting or controversial.
It doesn’t have to be perfect or polished.
It doesn’t even have to be finished.
That leaves an awful lot of things it could be, and not many excuses why it couldn’t.
Better it be made bad than never to be at all.
And it does have to be made.
Have you ever seen a bridezilla? Or the TV show ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen?’
These people implode into a raging boil of disappointment when they should be having a great time because they don’t know how to let go of a good plan, amongst other things.
A good plan is essential, but so is knowing when to abandon one.
ESPECIALLY if you want a good party.
In R.L. Wing’s translation of Sun Tzu, The Art of Strategy, we read, “Those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow.”
There’s no point obsessing about a plan because most plans go out the window as soon as they’re finished. As James Clear says, “Getting started changes everything.”
We need to decide where we want to go, but we don’t need to know precisely how to get there.
The important part is to get going and be ready to take a detour when we inevitably have to. Often, it turns out that’s the path we were supposed to be on all along.
We get all sorts of nonsense stuck in our heads that stops us from getting what we want.
One particularly nasty one that trips people up — especially when starting something new — is thinking that they’re too bad to start.
But as my incredibly wise running coach says, “You’re never too bad to start getting better.”
No matter how bad we think we are at something. No matter how unfit or unhappy or unskilled or unmotivated we feel.
We’re never too bad to start getting better.
And starting is half the battle.
Originality is almost as big a curse as perfection.
For millennia creatives have wasted their time trying to “be original.”
Due to the laws of nature, both measurable and imperceptible, nothing can be the same twice.
Nothing is the same. Nothing is original.
Even if it looks roughly the same. Even if we try to make it precisely the same — and we do — we’ll always cock it up somehow, and it’ll be its own, new, slightly different, not perfect thing.
The best creatives learn to do this “stealing like an artist” better than anyone else: taking something you like and doing it your way.
And although imperfect unoriginality might the best we can do.
It’s always a damn sight better than doing nothing.
It’s not always easy.
It’s not supposed to be.
And sometimes it really fucking hurts.
But that’s ok;
That’s what it’s about.
It still really fucking hurts.
So we shake it off.
We get up and get on.
Because that’s the reason we’re here.
Getting up from those knocks.
Climbing up to those peaks.
Or exploring the cold side of the pillow,
For just a little bit longer because it’s Friday.
It’s well-known that humans are terrible at remembering things.
We peer through the blurry lens of time, forgetting the boring or nasty or annoying memories and embellishing the tasty morsels.
It makes us awful at predicting the future too.
We ignore all of the massive, disruptive change we’ve lived through and decide that the future will be pretty much the same as it is now. Nothing will change. We are at the end of the line—the end of history.
But we’re not.
We’re not even close.
Imagine a 20-year-old suggesting that they’d done all the changing they’d ever do and life would be plain sailing for the next decade.
Yet, that’s what we do to ourselves every day.
I aim to change my life every 6 months and the last year has still seen far more change than I ever expected. And I’m betting Life will change again by the end of this year for all of us.
Don’t beat yourself up by imagining the future is the past.
Not finished yet?
More like just getting started.
Failure is frustrating, so it’s important to remember that we all start out crap.
Whenever we try something new, our first attempt is always terrible. And we usually stay pretty terrible for many more attempts after that.
It’s normal to be shit at stuff.
As James Clear reminds us:
“Your favourite athlete’s first workout was just as bad as yours.
Your favourite chef’s first meal was just as bad as yours.
Your favourite artist’s first work was just as bad as yours.”
Your heroes and idols embraced this fact of life and kept going until they made something awesome.
Keep going, and you will too.