The Momentum Principle

Many of the things we need to know and learn as writers (and/or publishers), we need to know and learn for life. I often find that something from my personal life applies to this blog because, let’s face it, maturity as people helps us toward maturity as writers. Of course, there are job-specific things to learn, but you get it.

One of the lessons of a life well lived is to use the momentum principle when you can, and to overcome it when it is working against you. Here is the momentum principle: When you are moving, you want to keep moving. When you are stopped, you want to stay still. It also has something to do with Newton’s laws of physics. Even nature obeys this principle, so it is no wonder that we can feel overwhelmed when we need to change from stop to go, or vice versa.

I suppose that the first step toward mastering this process is to recognize it. Knowing is half the battle, right? In a world obsessed with information, we can accept this first step as valid. So, once you’ve read this blog, you’ll be at least that far along. Example: When you are clipping along on a story, it haunts your dreams and you wake up with your fingers moving across an air keyboard. When you come back from vacation and see the laptop in the corner covered in cobwebs, you somehow manage to skirt around it more than a week before tripping on it. I don’t know about you, but I can really build a task up in my head the longer I wait to do it, which just makes it harder to begin. (See this post for more on overwhelming yourself with trumped-up expectations.)

The second step is to recognize it in real time. For me, this means that the information has not only sunk in, but that it has been repeated enough–either in my exterior circumstances or my mindscape–to be handy when I need to identify it or name it. But then there it is, staring you in the face. The dishes need to be done. Newton’s laws are in the way because you are laying on the couch. Aha! I totally remember that blog I read the other day by that starving author lady! I am facing the momentum principle!

Third step: practice overcoming it. PS. You are not going to win this one every time. But you can win it right now. Consider this practice. If you stop blogging now when you should be getting in the car for that meeting, you have just practiced conquering the momentum principle, which gets you one day closer to mastering it. Third step again: also practice using it. Most of us don’t need too much practice with this part, but I sure could improve. In other words, follow through to completion, don’t allow unnecessary distractions, and schedule to keep the momentum going. A month-long retreat would be ideal, but make sure even your daily schedule allows for you to return to those things that are all revved up right now.

Fourth: make it a habit. Technically, this isn’t really a step, because it’s just step three repeated ad nauseum (or for between two to eight months, according to some research out of University College London). If you want to be the kind of person who gets moving without someone lighting a fire under your butt, you want to return to things that have not been completed without an inner civil war, and you want to move without spiritual friction from one task to the scheduled next, you have to practice working with and against the momentum principle.

Then, don’t let it slide off the radar. Because we all know bad habits die hard. And they even like to hide and jump out at us later.

So basically, I just outlined how to build a new habit or slaughter an old one. So that’s a useful life lesson and writer/publisher lesson, too. But knowing how to handle habits and the momentum principle could easily make the difference between your indie pub company producing four books this year, or zero. And it could mean the difference between you finishing a single novel or juggling twenty ideas which are by now growing confused and dusty. Or it could mean the difference between your kids standing at the curb alone and bored again waiting to get picked up from school, and you being super-mom or super-dad.

I choose four books, a complete novel, and super mom. Momentum principle be darned! or embraced! Or a little of both, each in it’s proper moment.

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