Friday, February 11, 2011


Do you want to know who was smart? Sir Isaac Newton was smart. I know very few of the smart things that he said, ignorant of Newtonian physics that I am, but I do know that he said that an object at rest will remain at rest and an object in motion will remain in motion. These are not just true words, but EXTREMELY true words.

Regarding my current novel-in-progress, for months I was an object at rest, completely paralyzed by inertia. I could have stayed at rest for the remainder of my days if it hadn't been for the small matter of a book contract with a due date. That was the force that acted upon me to nudge me into motion. At first motion was slow, halting, fraught with self-doubt. But now, with 15 chapters written, I can't stop writing. I resent anything that takes me away from writing. I know I need to grade the papers for my Major Social Theories class, but first I want to write just one more chapter - and another - and another. I am in motion!!!!!

So, dear friends, if you are stuck, if you are sunk into the bogs of inertia, the La Brea tarpits of incapacitating sloth, try to find just one little nudge somewhere in the universe. Of course, a book contract is a particularly efficacious nudge, but if you need to seek your nudge elsewhere, make a pact with a friend to write just one page - one paragraph - one sentence. If you can just get yourself into motion, on the right kind of frictionless slope?, you will be able to remain in motion.

I need to look up these laws of motion to figure out where acceleration fits in. Because it does seem that once you begin to be in motion, you don't just continue at the same pleasant, steady pace, but you go faster, faster, faster, hurtling toward completion of your task. So maybe Newton has another law that says, An object in motion will take such pleasure from being in motion that it will move ever faster, hugging itself with the happiness of motion itself.

That seems right to me.


  1. As you know I am a physicist, you must also know that this post is just irresistible bait to me. You correctly quote Newton's First Law. His second law is that the amount of acceleration increases with increasing force and decreases with increasing mass (a=F/m). The force is the deadline, and it not only sets you in motion, but it will cause your speed to continue to increase as long as it looms. I think the mass must be your desire to procrastinate and the odiousness of the task.

    However, I don't think that analogy fits exactly with how you feel. You really want an analogy that says that you will go faster simply because you are in motion. I suggest using Newton's law of gravity. The completed project exerts a gravitational force on you. When you are far from completion the force is weak, but as you get closer the force is stronger and you go faster and faster.

    To really stretch the analogy. You might begin sitting on the Moon, stuck in its gravitational well of procrastination. The deadline is like a rocket that boosts you off of the Moon (at escape velocity). The completed project is the beautiful blue and green Earth, pulling you into its embrace. Eventually you must put on the breaks and come in for a landing, otherwise you will get stick in Earth orbit, forever refining your project but never completing it.

  2. I love love love this, Scott! I so hoped you would rise to this bait! I almost put in my original post: "Scott? Am I getting this right?" So, the good old law of gravity will do this for me. Who knew?