Monday, November 28, 2011



We face it every day. How human to avoid work. Should I do the dishes now or just continue watching the sunset? Should I read more of that spectacular new book or watch another rerun of the O.C.?

For writers, inertia has a power all its own. Staring at the laptop screen, moving the mouse from one blank spot to another, typing a word or phrase, erasing . . . wondering maybe instead of writing, considering what’s on TV or how about another delicious knife blade of almond butter. I greatly admire those writers who crank out a book every year; some people write several. Daunting to meet these prolific people, who seem a lot more disciplined than me. However does Mary Jane Maffini keep doing this?

Even writers on deadline have writing inertia. A friend with a due date two months from now hasn’t been able to really get chomping on the mss. he must deliver. A former editor of mine admitted that her company always built an extra 2-3 months into the schedule for writers to deliver their final final product; said delay admitting that writers often don’t meet deadlines well.

Given my publishing history, I’m a successful writer. Ok, so why do I have such awful inertia working at my next book? After five years the inertia has worsened to almost a phobia. Let’s be honest, the opposite of inertia is discipline, and somehow we lose the ooomph of process that when one day slides into another week without hardly a paragraph’s creation.

I even posted on Facebook some months ago: Blocked Writer Needs Help. Got a lot of suggestions, including the most basic which was to start by writing just one word daily until our creative vehicles got up to speed.

That suggestion didn’t work. Nor did any of the others. For a while I turned to my daily horoscope, hmmm, no clues there. I’ve friends who are excellent therapists, I’ve asked them to help with methods to motivate myself; that didn’t work either.

Lately, I’ve come to realize how self-defeating inertia can be. I realized I was the same age as James Lee Burke, one of the finest mystery writers in the English language. Looking at his major accomplishments and awards, I realized the sense of time flowing past and that motivated me like nothing else. Call it a realization that the winds don’t blow forever, nor the seas roll, nor whatever other cliché you name. Far down the scale of accomplishments by people like Burke, I was impelled to go back to writing and finishing this damn book. Although I really have not yet worked up a daily discipline. Maybe reading and re-reading this blog will be the final push I need

To be continued, I think . . .

David Cole is overcoming five years of procrastinations and is finally attacking his eighth novel, Ransom My Soul - a somewhat bleak novel of home invasions, drug cartels and human smuggling in southern Arizona, tempered (hopefully) with a fine romance and love story. David's short story,, is featured in Indian Country Noir (Akashic Press); he's also working on several non-fiction books about law enforcement, including The Blue Ceiling, a compilation of personal stories about women in law enforcement.


  1. How true, David - all of this. My particular nemesis is the lure of the virgin short story...I think of a great short story plot and find myself feverishly writing that instead of the novel I am under contract to finish.
    Of course, I could be writing said novel instead of reading this blog...

  2. I couldn't agree more. There are so many interesting things to do, to read, to watch and it's a struggle to sit down and churn out that first draft. The rewrites are fine because you have something to work on but the sfd is a challenge.

  3. I am the queen of inertia, David. Thanks for writing this. You give me hope.