When we are stuck, it’s easy to become consumed with getting unstuck. But maybe that’s not the right way to go about getting unstuck.
“If we stay where we are, where we’re stuck, where we’re comfortable and safe, we die there….When nothing new can get in, that’s death. When oxygen can’t find a way in,
you die. But new is scary, and new can be disappointing, and confusing—we had this
all figured out, and now we don’t. New is life.” ~ Anne Lamott,
Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
I stared into the eyes of my brilliant friend, editor, and publishing mentor, AJ Harper, and tried to answer her questions. How was the work on my manuscript coming? How was I feeling about the state of my rewrites which were due to my publisher in a week?
The brutal truth was that I was stuck, spinning in place. Feeling as if my brain was oddly offline, unable to coax the firing of ideas, connections, and order within my writing. I felt like I was trying to get creative cell reception on a signal-less, remote island. AJ knew the waters I was flailing within and advised that more forcing would not get me out of stuck.
And then I knew: I had been futilely swimming against the riptide of my creativity.
Going Against the Tide
Ocean swimmers are taught that if we ever get caught in a riptide, we should not do what our first inclination is—swim harder against the current toward shore. Such a decision will only exhaust us and push us further out to sea. Instead, we are taught to swim parallel to the shore until we can feel the force against us release. Then, turn toward shore and swim in.
The same advice applies to entrepreneurs and creators when we are stuck.
When you hit the wall during a creative project, stop. Stop forcing. Stop as much inbound as you possibly can. Stop distracting yourself. Stop overdoing. Stop allowing the signal-to-noise ratio to be way out of whack.
Stop swimming against the current of yourself.
What To Start When We’re Stuck
Start moving. Start meditating. Start opening up your focus. Start hearing yourself think. Start immersing yourself in nature. Start moving your hands, making something. Start putting yourself in front of beauty. Start digging energetic moats.
Start swimming parallel to the shore, while gathering and calming yourself. Replenish your creative reserves and feel around for the opening in your thinking that signals you can turn back toward shore and resume work on your project.
There is a hidden gift in this state of being stuck. It is a wildfire roaring through the underbrush of us, clearing out dead concepts and overgrown, tired ideas. It’s not fun or pleasant, but brings new life to the stalks of our projects, to us. Tiny, tender, and green shoots of new energy and awareness surface through sooty, stale thinking.
As Anne Lamott says, “New is life.”
Once we get going again, we need to stay in motion. Not to say we must overwork ourselves as that is a sure-fire way right back to Stuck City. Keep the faucet gently turned to the On position, and the pipes of your creative energy running the water clear by doing a little bit of work on your project each day.
Keep your creativity muscles warm. If we stay out of our project too long, the stiffness sets in, the lethargy creeps up the backs of our willingness and courage, and the ole fear dragon starts snorting and huffing from the corner of its cave.
Know the waters you are swimming in. Many times, choosing to do less achieves more.