How to Overcome Creative Inertia in Your Life

Inertia: the force which we must overcome to exert force.

YouTube: How to Overcome Creative Inertia and Inaction in Photography and Life

Questions to reflect on and examine

Many of us as photographers and creative folks want to make more photos, make more art, to be more active, inspired, and motivated to do stuff. Yet, we still feel that inertia, that sloth, and that laziness which prevents us from moving, acting, and taking action in our life.

Several questions: Where does creative inertia come from, why do we have it, and how can we overcome it?

“Laziness” examined

Okay so the first thing I want to tackle or talk about is the concept of “laziness”. Often we talk down on ourselves, by saying stuff like:

“Oh I want to do all this stuff and these creative projects, but I’m too lazy.”

This line of reasoning confuses me. These are the questions that come up in my head:

  • Do you really want to do these creative projects you propose? You realize if you’re not that passionate about the project, you don’t need to do it.
  • Are you lazy or just exhausted from your work, job, and life? I think we often confuse exhaustion with “laziness”. So for example, if you’re really mentally or physically exhausted after work to embark on your creative projects, you’re not lazy, you’re just exhausted.
  • Do you want to start your creative project, but you’re just uncertain what the first step is?

For example a lot of photographers want to pursue their passion in photography, and perhaps turn it into a living by monetizing it.

But a lot of beginner entrepreneurs are just confused or uncertain how to start, or where to start.

So is it lack of information, direction, or instructions which is holding you back?

Lack of creative confidence

Another deterrent: lack of creative confidence.

In this scenario, we want to do creative stuff, but we are afraid of negative judgment from our peers or others.

For example you might want to make more photos, or embark on a photography project but might be worried that if you publish or share your photos, people might say that your photos suck, or even worse, that you suck (the worst fear, an attack on our ego and sense of self-worth).


Sometimes we want to so creative stuff, be active and make stuff, but distractions get in our way.

For example, distractions might include your email, your phone, text messages, things on your to-do list, Netflix, blogs, websites, YouTube, etc.

If you’re easily distracted, rest assured, you are human (like the rest of us). Being easily prone to distraction isn’t some inferior character trait some of us have. Distraction afflicts us all equally horribly, just in different ways and in different domains.

So are passive distractions getting in the way of your active production of doing stuff?

“It’s already been done before” (and better than I have, or can ever do)

Some people might see the Sistine chapel and might be distraught, and it might paralyze or prevent them from any artistic attempts in their life because they might think:

No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be as good as [x].

However others might be more positive and optimistic and think,

Wow these artists from hundreds of years ago, who didn’t have access to Google, the internet, and modern digital tools were able to create all this epic stuff. I have so much more advantages over them. If I assert myself and work hard, I can become even better than them.

I recommend the more positive way of thinking.

Just because someone has done something before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to try in your own way. Because, you’re always going to do it differently, and possibly even better than those who came before you.

How to overcome creative inertia

Practical ideas to overcome creative inertia:

1. Do it for the sake of doing it (to figure out how it is):

In Vietnamese there is a saying, “Thử chợ biết”, which literally means “attempt/do something in order to know”. This is beautiful and sublime in its philosophical simplicity, because it means that in life, we can and should be curious, and attempt things by ourselves, to gain first-handed knowledge. We shouldn’t just take other’s word for it; we must attempt, and do, and experiment, and try for ourselves, for the sake of learning knowledge, and figuring out what we’re capable of.

You never know what your result will be unless you try or attempt something. So feel free to experiment in your photography projects, your business and entrepreneurial pursuits, in making music, dancing, poetry, sculpture, etc.

So philosophically, change your mindset. Do in order to learn, and discover your own potential.

2. Allow yourself to publish bad or “shitty” stuff

As adults we always encourage children in their paintings, dances, and singing without judgment. We applaud them, cheer them on, and encourage them.

Yet as we become older as adults, we are no longer given that encouragement from others.

For example, let’s say you made a watercolor painting that looked identical to a 2-year-old. Most people would probably criticize it and say that it “sucks” or that it is “shitty.”

But then again, consider the work of Mark Rothko, which looks like a bunch of random color splotches. Or Jackson Pollock’s ink droppings, or the cubist work of Picasso or the abstract cutouts of Matisse. These artistic geniuses are making stuff that looks identical to the work of children, although a little more refined.

Thus, allow yourself the freedom to publish stuff you consider not very good, because it will awaken your own inner-child, and keep you encouraged to keep making art.

3. Use inferior tools

Often the biggest deterrent to us is this:

I want to make good art, but my equipment sucks.

This happens to everyone, from photographers (cameras and lenses), to chefs (pots, pans, knives), to tennis players (rackets), and to basketball players (and shoes).

But I encourage you: make it a fun creative challenge to make good art with inferior equipment. Use an intentionally inferior camera to shoot photos (kind of how I use a $600 RICOH GR II instead of a $7,000 Leica), or sketch, draw and paint with simple pencils, brushes, and papers from the discount store.

Too much worrying about equipment will get in your way.

For example, a lot of people who want to get fit worry about buying expensive workout shoes, outfits, or the worst: expensive yoga pants or mats. The best is to just put on some tattered and old clothes and start immediately doing push-ups at home, running in the park, or lifting heavy stuff around at home.

So friend, I hope that this article has given you some positive, motivational, and practical ideas and thoughts for you to identify and overcome creative inertia in your life.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with a friend, or someone you think it will benefit.

And most importantly, don’t delay your artistic pursuits. At worst you might die tonight. Why delay your artistic passions and dreams?

You already have everything you need: your intelligence, talent, and skills.