Getting Started – Overcoming Creative Inertia

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Welcome to the start of something.

Only time will tell what the precise nature of that something is. Whatever the journey might look like I’m glad to have you along for the ride.

Starting things is hard. When I reflect on the things I’ve always wanted to do or goals I’ve had set for some time in the future it strikes me that there is often an inordinate amount of energy required just to begin.

I’m not a big fan of running as a form of exercise. Things have normally become desperate if I am in a (short) season of running. The hardest part is always the time from deciding it’s a good idea to actually changing into running clothes and putting on my trainers. Almost 100% of the time that I make it through those hurdles I actually go for a run. I won’t tell you how few times that is though! Getting to that point, standing outside, ready to go, is the hard part of the habit forming.

I find it is the same with most new endeavours. Before even starting, the mind games begin. There is a certain amount of inertia involved in starting a blog, starting that DIY project, writing a blog post, writing a song, tidying that cupboard, or writing a sermon.

Creative endeavours seem to come with an added challenge. The psychological hurdle of Imposter Syndrome. I’m not sure exactly where I first heard this concept but the basic idea is that we feel inadequate. We become aware of our weakness and wonder what we can possibly offer the world. Who will possibly read this blog? Why would I have anything of value to add to the conversation? Why should I write a song? Who do I think I am?

I suspect I’m not the only person reading this to suffer from Imposter Syndrome. It does nothing good for me, it robs me of confidence. It calls me to play it safe, never starting or pioneering anything. So many good things are on the other side of overcoming the feeling of inadequacy. For me, seeing a benefit for others, beyond myself, is a helpful way to overcome this. Maybe this writing will help someone? I certainly know from experience that when others share creatively I often benefit.

Creative tasks also inherently require a level of vulnerability. We are sharing something from our internal world, our though patterns, our way of thinking, our creative expression, a bit of ourselves – with the big bad world out there. There is a sense of attachment to the things we produce and no-one, no matter how thick skinned, wants to hear that their baby is ugly. Yet bringing something creative to bear on the world is a thing of beauty. An expression of our creator. An echo of the divine.

I’ve yet to find a way to avoid the initial pain of starting something. The most helpful thing I have found is simply to recognise that it is hard starting. That way I simply push through. I tell myself it will be easier on the other side.

Jim Collins, in one of my all time favourite leadership books, Good to Great*, talks about the concept of the flywheel. He discovered the idea in studying some of the best companies in the world. The concept is that the process of success is not about sudden moments but rather about a relentless and consistent pushing forward. Like moving a heavy flywheel, it takes a lot of force to get it moving. Slowly at first, but then eventually momentum grows and it becomes easier to maintain the rotation. It takes time to overcome the built in inertia. This analogy applies to so much in life but it always helps me think about starting something new. So often much more force is required to start.

Maybe, like me, there is something you have have been putting off? Something you have wanted to do for a while but it has never quite made it to the top of the to do list. Maybe it’s something creative or involves you putting yourself out there. Maybe you just need to start?

You join me at the start of the journey of this blog and the great news is I have started! The initial pushing has begun, things are moving, momentum here I come…

I’m not ignorant to the challenges of consistency but for now the fly wheel is moving!


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2 thoughts on “Getting Started – Overcoming Creative Inertia”

  1. For me, the problem goes beyond imposter syndrome. I need to feel that the creative project I am investing my time in is original or unique in some way. In our media saturated society, this goal is harder and harder to achieve for a piece of music, a game, a book, an artwork. A quick search turns up thousands of similar works that already exist, and I find I am left with only those ideas that seem so outlandish that very few people would connect with them.

  2. Great comment Martin. That can be daunting and definitely something I struggle with too. The way I’ve tried to overcome that same challenge is by recognising that because I am unique as a person, what I produce will, even if similar to others, will come out with my unique flavour and personality. Not everyone will connect with my ‘style’ but for some it will be just what they need. That sometimes helps me!

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