How to get rid of rust.

A couple of years ago, I looked in the mirror as I struggled to button my trousers and said, “You fat bastard, get to the gym.” I dutifully signed up for a gym membership, got a trainer and vowed earnestly to show up. My initial physical assessment was depressing. I was fat indeed. But, energized by novelty, I showed up at my first appointment with visions of a lithe me doing handsprings in my head.

God, it was grueling. I was red faced and puffing a few minutes into the session. I clearly had an awfully long way to go. How would I stick to it rather than retiring to a pint of ice cream on the couch? The financial commitment was somewhat helpful; I’d optimistically bought an expensive package of training sessions so I couldn’t very well blow it off outright. Instead I just started to space the sessions further and further apart, from three weekly sessions to one that I managed to fill with chitchat rather than cardio.

Imagine a little red wagon full of fat sitting on top of a hill. Rolling those first few inches takes more effort than you can imagine. Inertia is a real drag. But now imagine that the axles of that red wagon are rusted solid, the wheels crusty and locked. And then imagine that the scrawny kid who’s supposed to push the wagon down from the top of the hill would much rather be at home, on his Xbox.

Inertia + rust + (zero x motivation) = not much.

Last spring I went to my doctor for a physical and he said, “You fat bastard, stop eating and get to the gym — or you’ll die too young.” I started intermittent fasting, doing cardio, and lost 30 lbs. My doctor’s voice was a lot more motivating than my own.

Also, I discovered that fear is a great rust remover. And once I’d set my eyes on the horizon (i.e. avoiding death), the initial struggle of getting used to not eating and much sweating was overcomeable. Buh-bye, inertia.

But this is not a diet blog so let me get to the point. And the point is, getting back to writing my blog.

From my very first blog post, “Crippling anxiety”, 12/3/2003

When I started this blog, fifteen years ago, it was to amuse my friend Richard Bell. Richard had and has his own most excellent blog, Wild West Yorkshire, and I thought it would be quite nice to do something similar but more modest in ambition. The stakes were low, so it was pretty easy to get the wagon rolling.

Over the ensuing decades, I have gone through occasional fallow periods with very sporadic posting and declining readership, and then returned with zeal and trumpets, usually breaking my silence with a long, self-flagellating post about why I stopped blogging and why I was going to truly start again, including an unrealistic promise that I’d be writing at least once a day from here on out.

I am now at the edge of another such desert, stretching behind me over a year, broken up only by intermittent video and podcast posts and ads for bits and bobs. Let the trumpets sound once more.

My excuses to myself for such a long stretch of unproductiveness have been legion: No one reads blogs anymore. Sketchbook Skool is now my creative outlet. I have nothing left to say. And so on.

It’s probably true that I stopped writing because I was busy with other stuff but not that busy so I would stop all together for ages. But the problem wasn’t that the wagon was heavy. It was that it was parked. As as it sat there, the wheels grew rustier and rustier. Inertia seemed to metastasize. And the very idea of writing seemed overwhelming.

Fig I7B: Rust versus momentum.

Here’s how I start to move the wagon. Any wagon. The fat wagon. The blog wagon. The drawing wagon. The relationship wagon.

I start small. But I start. Take one step. Lift one barbell. Skip one burger. Write one blog post.

It’s not easy. Writing that first post means creaking out some very rusty words. My fingers are stiff. So are my sentences. The thesaurus in my brain is dusty. And of course, my inner critic, the monkey, woken from a long slumber, begins to squawk in a hoarse voice. But heeding him will not help me break through the inertia and the rust. I must push on.

I expect nothing from each step I take. I do it for its own sake. I dig deep and try to find the pleasure in the act itself rather than in the result. I relish the sweat, the pain, the clumsy lines, the wrong words inching onto the screen. I think incredibly long term if I must think of the end at all. I won’t be daunted by how distant the horizon seems or let the gradualness of my progress dissuade me from taking one more step, writing one more line, eschewing one more french fry. The goal is to overcome inertia. To shake off rust. To inch the wagon down the hill until the forces of gravity and habit start to help me roll once more.

Those of you who have been longtime readers may notice that I have done some long-overdue housekeeping in preparation for the onslaught of posts I anticipate. The design has been simplified, the detritus that cluttered up the right column has been expunged, and I’ve added a few widgets to encourage you to delve into the archives. After 15 years of blogging there is a lot of accumulated crap in the basement but I have assembled some one of the pearls under the header category “Best Of“. Feel free to re-read them, share them with your friends, and have them tattooed on your body.

39 thoughts on “How to get rid of rust.”

  1. Yes! I for one still like blogs- and strive to read the real thing more often. To dive deeper than the surface of social media posts and actually read, not skim. While I may not have any D. Gregory-isms tattooed on my body, lol- I am a long time reader, still here, reading. Happy New Year!


  2. Oh Danny, Danny, Danny, you’re speaking my truth, singing my song, telling my story. I’ll say only this – I too, am going to melt my rust one step at a time.

    Thank you for sharing you thoughts, your angst, your shame and your desire to take action. You’ve inspired me and my monkey is already screaming ‘bloody murder”.

    Happy New Year – with joy and success in all your endeavours.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your inspiration! I am indeed rusty and need to get moving (literally) and drawing every day!

    Thanks for the motivation! Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy New Year, Danny, good to see you in my inbox. I DO read blogs and I love yours, inspiring to my own creative process for which I’m very grateful. Even your rusty writing is refreshing to me. Cheers.


  5. I love you blog posts! Always have, always will. We all have lives with many paths to follow. Some are worn, familiar. Others new, fresh. Some we abandon, some lead us astray. Our favorites often allow us time to explore their offshoots but equally often lead us full circle to where our journey began, You are an incredible inspiration, Danny. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Always motivating. Thanks so much. Today’s the start of a fresh new sketchbook and the first pages will be “RUST” and include some of your inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. At first I thought someone was writing my life. I diet for 24 hurst’s and not only expect to be 35 lbs lighter but taller as well. (I stretched as I waited for my cinnamon bun to heat up.)

    where are are your other blogs. I need constant inspiration …Maybe one day I’ll go to the gym. (right across the street) but at this moment it might as well be on top of Mt. Everest.

    Thank you for much for this letter.


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good to see you back blogging, Danny. You’re a great writer and as a writer myself I’m more tuned in to words than videos so I must confess to not watching yours. You’re exactly right about inertia and just starting, no matter how small the result seems. I used to tell my students, “if you write just a page a day, in a year you’ll have a book.” Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a goal. Just keep writing. You don’t have to write volumes. Anything you write, even a paragraph, is more creative than a blank screen or page. Good luck!


  9. I still read blogs and yours is a big favorite of mine. Your are a welcome sight in my inbox, whether it is once a year or every day!

    Wishing you every success! It is my resolution to bust out of my inertia.


  10. Damn Rust! It’s everywhere I look these days & I even have time to attack most of it. Hmm. Welcome back Danny! Your post was spot on.


  11. It looks like a lot of us still read blogs, especially when they are written by someone with great verbal skills and interesting things to say — like you, Danny! I look forward to more blogs and hopefully some podcasts in the future.


  12. I love reading blogs and your blog is always interesting and informative! This one made me laugh. My husband wants us to join a gym this year. I work 12 hour days. He just retired. Needless to say, I am too tired to go to a gym. His wheels are a little rusty. It will be interesting to see if he gets his wheels rolling to a gym! Thanks for the great blog post. Happy New Year! By the way, you looked great at Sketchkon so keep going.


  13. I’ve left my blog to rust, and rust and then to dust…I let my sketchbook rust in 2018 too, but I closed the one I hated and started a new one, with squirts of wd40 the wagon is inching along. I always enjoy reading your blog, good luck with the rust and fat removal in 2019.


  14. It was so good to see your name in my inbox this am! I love the more streamlined approach. I am working on that as well, so many areas need pruning. Thanks for the inspiration, and I’m glad you’re back. Happy New Year!


  15. Thank you. For being you. For sharing. For your writing (and all your other work)! Hello to 2019! …and blogging resolutions? I’ll read when you show up. I’ll write, when I show up for me! Again, really, thanks!


  16. Danny, Your blog is simply a window to your thoughts, and we love your insights, humor, intelligence, and the way you think. After a while trying to create fresh new material is a problem for everyone – tv sitcoms, movies, blogs, and relationships. Nothing unusual going on with you here. Perhaps you are feeling that every word has to be over the top insightful, witty and grand, and it’s hard to be at the top of your game every time you post. But we love you for you. If you approach it like letting us peek into your personal journal, the pressure to perform would be off and you could just let your thoughts run. You are special and have a unique way of viewing the world, and that’s what’s appealing about your blog. If you gave someone else the exact same topic to write a blog about, I’ll bet they wouldn’t be half as entertaining as you! No worries.


  17. Happy New Year and welcome back! Always enjoy reading your voice even if you are making excuses for why you’ve been neglecting us.


  18. Perhaps it feels as if no one reads blogs anymore because most blogs have nothing interesting to say. I have left a number of them, due to the mundane topics and excessive adverts. However, Danny, your blog is not one of those and I was delighted to see your message in my in-box today. I loved this post – it rings true for most of us at one time or another (or again and again, as the case may be). And I look forward to the next round with anticipation. Love your writing, and your wit! Thank you!


  19. Well it seems you are an old rusty dog among a pack of them. Howl on and we’ll join the chorus. I removed myself from facebook four months ago because I was missing my mind. My friends both real and ersatz set up complaining. To quieten them down I told them I’d write a newsletter and send it off once a week to those who wanted it. Enough said yes. I write it on my blog and then copy it to a group email. Because these friends won’t visit a blog . I was only after the promise that I made as it means my blog is no longer neglected.. Reading a blog is so arduous., I get weary thinking about it. I really don’t miss being enraged daily on fb though. Keep on keepin’ on Danny. It appears we like you on a fox, or with some lox or even in a box.


  20. Happy New Year Danny. You write it and 99 times out of 100 I will read it, enjoy it, and profit by it. Rust related to oxidation seems to me to be everywhere and the struggle to deal with it is ongoing. The people who share their approaches are treasures and of course I consider you one of them. 21 comments to me seems to be an indication of how much you are valued as I am sure many many more have neither the time, nor strength to post. By the way who the hell told you people don’t read blogs anymore? Somebody that is pushing videos probably or podcasts. Nothing wrong with that just different values. Great to see you blogging.


  21. Thank you, Danny. I always read your blogs and receive much from them. I dig regularly into your blog archives. I re-listen to Art for All interviews. I have gained so very much from your writings, conversations with other artists and the terrific kourses at SBS. In whatever format you choose, please keep sharing!


  22. I go through cycles of being excited and energized by my blog and feeling like writing the posts is a slog. So I have to restart my wagon rather often. I think fear of failure is my rust… what if no one reads what I wrote? What if I suck? But I keep showing up anyway, because if I only did the things I felt like? I’d be on the couch with ice cream. Glad to hear you are getting back in the groove because I find your posts encouraging and real. Keep up the good work!


  23. On target Danny! So glad to have seen your email in my queue and as usual grabbed a cup of coffee and read it with excitement. It is always something I go to as I get 1,000 emails a day and appreciate your written word. It’s refreshing, what your latest thinking is, and gives a perspective that makes me think. So keep on trucking. Appreciate you and all your efforts! Happy New Year!


  24. well Danny… just remember this, you are the father of us all (huge job!) and have introduced many of us to drawing again, and lots,, and in many ways.. books, sketchbook school, blog.. all loved by so many but the basic and wonderfulness of you is that you motivated many many of us to DRAW..I do and thank you every single day..truly!!.. so take a breath, pat yourself on the back and smile and pick up the pen and pencil…thank you thank you thank you…


  25. Danny – your blog and your books inspired me to get sketching again – miss the family stuff and your own sketching – and sometimes just don’t have time for your longer stuff – but always good to hear from you !


  26. So happy to hear from you again. As someone wrote in an earlier response, we love you for being you. We welcome your unique insights and wonderful writing. I still read blogs, always hungry for something with substance, even if it’s short and sweet. Much prefer a blog over FB, any day of the week. I have followed you for years, and enjoy your musings on ANY topic. Thank you and happy 2019!


  27. I was glad to see you in my email this afternoon. I relate to the rust –especially after my doctor noticed my rusty areas at today’s checkup! I’ve been fighting inertia (and rust) –so here’s to small steps in the New Year. My first small step was sketching people in the waiting room.


  28. Welcome back Danny and Happy New Year! You are a truly inspiration. I need to hear this. Praying for fully recovery, we need you in this world


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