One way to overcome inertia
Always we begin again.” ~ St. Benedict
The idea of inertia comes up a lot lately. I feel stuck in ruts that are hard to get out of. I stop and start things that are hard to restart or pause. I’m all about habits and routines and then I develop bad ones. Inertia makes hurdles out of my good intentions, and the constant vigilance against vice is exhausting.
Inertia is usually used in reference to a resistance to move—sluggishness, sloth, denial, head-burying—but the definition is about the tendency of an object to continue what it is doing, moving or not, until some other force acts on it. If there were no friction or gravity or air resistance, the baseball I threw in second grade would still be traveling, weak as I was when I threw it. I am no scientist, but I like to think about these things in relation to my real life. I care about getting out of ruts and changing course when I’m wrong.
There are those who think unchangingness is a virtue they can possess. My mind hasn’t changed about XYZ people say, and they take that as a sign of their rightness, as if they have all the knowledge they will ever need and their minds are set in concrete, and therefore they are right.
I believe a change of mind can be a good thing, but I have thought it a virtue to resist other change, to be absolutely consistent in my practices. I never have achieved this, but it has been a measuring stick that beats me when I am inconsistent. At all times there is some habit I need to curb and some good intention I need to nurture and I do not want to be stuck in any ways God doesn’t intend, but I am bruised by my own nature.
When I first started writing on the internet 9 years ago, I was only looking for an outlet. I didn’t have “my audience” in mind, as the experts say you should, but I wanted a space to say the things I never got around to saying. I am soft-spoken by nature—it takes significant energy to project my voice loud enough to be heard in a group, and my energy is low. I will rarely fight to be heard. I am slow to formulate thoughts and most people don’t have the patience to wait, or they assume (I am assuming) that I have no thoughts on the matter. Blogging was—and still is, if I let it be—a way for me to work out my thoughts and be brave enough to let my changes be documented publicly.
I also love the beauty of an ordinary day and blogging gives me a place to put words to it.
Writing on the internet has been sporadic for me, and I blame inertia. We could call “the worry about what people think” or “the possibility that my writing is dead and tired” the friction, gravity, and air resistance that stop me. I used to think the longer I did this, the braver and better I’d be, but the words I wrote 5 years ago do not make today’s writing any easier. Instead of getting in the groove and staying consistent, inertia takes me into silence and immobility and I can see now that this is a pattern I will always fight against. I will always be changing and starting again, overcoming inertia in my writing and my life.
I have considered the idea that I could stop blogging at any time—close up shop, stop worrying about not writing on the blog, and live a normal life without the stress of expressing myself in public. But I feel better when I am writing regularly, and I write better when it is for you to read, and I don’t want to do things without improving on them. I just need a little push once in awhile to get over the inertia.
In this strange online world of writing, Instagram is one of the tools I use to overcome inertia. It is a place I ruthlessly curate for truth, goodness, and beauty because those constants inspire me, and I follow and unfollow people based on those three criteria.
Following for truth means I am reminded of Scripture and I am challenged to think more deeply about all the truth that is in the world. I sometimes follow people who think differently than I, and I try to be willing to change.
Following for goodness means my eyes are opened to see through other people’s perspective, to rejoice and weep with them, to allow for joy.
Following for beauty means I delight in the works of God and man in the world He made—art, music, literature, nature. A sunset is not frivolous, nor is a forest, a hand-knit sweater, a shot of your desk or workspace, or a word fitly spoken. I am here for all of it.
I have unfollowed accounts because their pictures were not beautiful to me, but I have followed and stuck with others who’ve made up for a lack of good aesthetics with true, good, and beautiful words. I have unfollowed loud and boisterous go-getters, not because I think they’re wrong, just wrong for my temperament or the time of life I’m in.
I follow artists and theologians and authors and poets; mamas and designers and business gurus and teachers. I decide, is the point. It’s social media and it can be too much and is completely unnecessary, but I choose what to take in and that is serious business.
Input is an important tool for overcoming inertia in my writing, and my soul.
Instagram a good place to practice with words because it’s a low level risk—posts fade quickly and there is so much to see. My blog is slightly higher risk, since it is all my own and serves as my living room on the internet (an idea that I think came from Lore at sayable.net), and submitting to online magazines is higher still, being someone else’s living room. The other writing I’m doing that nobody sees is the working out of my own salvation, in a sense, and is some of the most important work I do.
But, dear reader, I’ve jumped ahead and claimed my work to be important. I don’t mean that my words will change the world, but they do change me and that is a good work. By sharing the daily stuff and the beautiful world with you, I hope you feel braver to overcome your own inertia, your own insecurities about the good work you do, or to nod me, too over my foibles and follies. I refuse to let blogging die because I know what the slow, fallible, quiet work of other writers has meant to me.
Here’s to practicing your slow and quiet work without fear. Here’s to new mercies and habits that help and downtime and inertia and not quitting the good stuff. Here’s to good input that fuels your creativity—found online and outside, in Scripture and the works of man, at your table and in your own head.
If there were no help from Christ, there would be no help from other human beings. He works on us in all sorts of ways: not only through what we think our ‘religious life’. He works through Nature, through our own bodies, through books…
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
**Nearly every week for the last year, Lindsay and I have talked over FaceTime or put our earbuds in for a “walk-n-talk”. We discuss writing and life and the whole weird world, and it has been life-giving. This post came from one of our talks, as an exercise in getting back to the work by examining our why. Why Instagram? Why blogging? Go read what she has to say about it—you will be blessed.
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