Friday, October 9, 2009

Inertia: Just Do It

So sometimes the hardest part is the beginning, the just doing it, because inertia is in fact a contagious disease.

The anticipatory thinking of a thing, the "I don't wanna" and the "I'll do it tomorrow" often takes longer than (and is worse than) the doing of the thing you're so studiously avoiding. To wit: this post. It will take me 20 minutes to write it, but I've spent two and a half months avoiding it.

It's been so long that even my pen has succumbed to inertia (yes, I'm old-fashioned. I can edit at the computer, but I can't write), and I had to rinse the dried ink out of the nib. We get like that, too. We think we're dried up, but we're not; it's just that our creative nibs are clogged with day-to-day crap.

Okay, that was a tortured metaphor. Cut me some slack, it's been a while.

August was a lost month. We went out of town and the garden dried up, succumbing to squash vine borers (much to the relief of MP) and the weather. August always makes me think of strange things, and this August was no exception. However, to protect both the guilty and the innocent, I won't go into detail. No, it's no good. Don't ask.

Okay, here's a hint: F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night is a terrible beach read. Remember that.

The thing about Just Doing is to bear in mind that it is not the result that matters, but the endeavor itself. At long last you're doing something. Doesn't matter what, or how much; it's more than you did before.

Fear can be a compelling reason why we don't do something. I hate calling contractors to do home improvement work. Hate it. What do I know about someone's skills at carpentry? Get cold sweats. But I can not deal with crappy dirt and diseased tomatoes next year, and I will not hump 4 cubic yards of compost one wheelbarrow at a time along one side of the house, out around the back deck, and across the back yard because some cheap nitwit didn't put a gate in the fence on that side of the house. No.

I have learned to divide things into smaller and smaller chunks, distilling tasks down to their essence. When faced with fear, the question is this: what is the smallest step I can take in this project without succumbing to mind-numbing fear? Look up names. Choose three. Call one for an appointment. Call another. Get estimates and compare.

It is excruciatingly slow. But it is moving forward. Sometimes when things are scary, you have to go that slow. Like Zeno's arrow, you have to fool the frightened part of yourself into thinking you are not moving at all, that everything is fine. You have to reward yourself for tiny acts of bravery. In this way you create a body of accomplishment from which to draw confidence.

There are many people in this world who are doing things I would love to be doing. It isn't that they are fundamentally more talented than I am, but they are braver. It is pointless to entertain thoughts of cowardice -- you work with what you get. So what's the smallest thing I can do right now, TODAY, that put's me closer to my goal?

Don't dwell. Don't let it become a Big Thing. Just do it -- and then eat a chocolate afterward. Chocolate makes everything less scary.

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