Starting is the hard part


A blog. A diet. An exercise program.

Learning a new language, or a new instrument, or a new behavior.

For some among us, getting out of bed.

Inertia is a bitch, and before the start of anything, there you are, soaking in it.

Right now, I’m letting inertia win the battle to get back on the SCD, to meditate, to exercise. On the other hand, I’m kicking that bitch’s ass when it comes to blogging, networking and taking my morning constitutional. (I get some help on that last one. You try saying no to this face.)

She thought she had me with cold calling and guitar playing; one week off of each stretched into two, three and four. There were a multitude of reasons to let her take the wheel, of course. Taxes. A huge conference. Great project possibilities that came out of the huge conference.

Your guitar, it’s not even strung! she whispered. And you don’t know how to do it; you’ll probably screw it up! Besides, you look so tired, Colleen. Let me drive. You close your eyes and rest. Just rest.

Starting is the hard part, but the thing that finally struck me over the weekend is that you’re always starting, even when you’re keeping something going. Yes, the time between starting gets shorter and shorter the more you stick with something, and that makes things feel easier. (It’s not the getting better at something that makes it feel easier, you know, because when you get better, the hurdles just get higher.) But it’s still starting. Every single day, you’re starting your next level of exercise, or your next day of a diet regimen, or your next song/post/call/whatever.

With this logic tentatively in place, I asked inertia to step aside on Saturday. Politely. Just let me string the guitar. I know I’m slow. Just let me…I know I’m bad at it. Just…

And maybe one song. I’m not really practicing; I’m just fooling around. I’m just testing out the new strings.

Oh, look, I played around for 10 minutes.

I guess I started again.

And the next day? I’ll start again. Or maybe inertia will.

Every day, each of us gets a chance. Even-steven. Could go either way.

The bitch, Inertia, kissing cousin to the Resistor, makes it feel like the odds are in her favor because she holds up an eternity of starts. Every day, you’ll have to start this. Every single, hard, long, aching awful, unknown day.

But that’s bullshit, I know now. I only have to start today. I’m not even going to fight that bitch anymore. I’m just going to try stepping around her.

To fool around a bit. Just this once, today.

Ready? Let’s start…


Image by Jon Marshall via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Yet again you have articulated something that is happening to me just now – the starting up again. I’ve just blasted my way through a set of pretty gruelling exams in college and now I have a couple of essays due – and whereas I managed to keep the pep up for the six or eight weeks of preparation for the exams and the exams themselves, I’m now, when it comes to writing my papers, thoroughly demotivated. Any tips, Colleen?

    (By the way, this comes from within the college library, so at least I am part of the way to getting my ass in gear.)

  2. We all beat ourselves up over this, but after all, inertia is Newton’s first law of motion: “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” Key word “external.”

    It’s been a long time since I took physics, but I think inertia is a stronger force than gravity. So being able to overcome it is a tough nut.

  3. I love the concept of a level playing field: we are all fixin’ to take our next step we have not taken before. It’s often a matter of every step of every day! Your post offers confidence and compassion to what @havi calls the ‘stuckification’ of inertia…a great boost for a Monday morning! And I have her to thank for directing me to you. Lovely!

  4. Read a great book about the Kaizen way (sorry forget the title) but in the book, the author talks about doing something for only a minute.

    Then the next day doing it for another minute and adding a minute to it.

    In this way, you are flying under your critical editor radar. So there is no little voice telling you “you can’t do this or that.”

    I’ve found this works extremely well in my life.

    This is how I came to do my exercising every day and not to do it is no longer being controlled by the goddess “inertia” because exercising is now a habit.


  5. Fionnuala – Hooray for you, writing from the library! I’m not sure what motivation I can offer, but I think Judith’s minute-at-a-time idea is not a bad one. Also, if you can reconnect to *why* you started all the studying and work towards the degree, it may help. Sometimes it does me.

    Jean – Damned science. I think it’s true. But still: damned science.

    Catherine – So I’m not the only one, is what you’re saying? :-)

    Sheri – Havi rules. Glad we’re playing on the same team. (Wait–that’s a weird analogy.) (You know what I mean.)

    Judith – I need to read up on Kaizen. I’m getting a lot of buddhist stuff floating my way lately. Must be some teacher, trying to appear before my blind ass.

  6. And then of course there is the Justifier, if we wnat to add another layer. Because the Justifier has to get the Righteous One, who knows that it’s just about getting started, to back off.

  7. Just to follow up from my whine above, a tutor today gave me a really nice piece of advice: just get it done, and if it works out well, that’s gravy.

    Thanks for your advice, Colleen.

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