This is a rhetorical question, because the answer is always ‘Yes!’ (If it’s ‘no’, you’re probably from Alpha Centauri, or some other, more well-adjusted, star system.)
I get stuck all the time. This morning I’m stuck on an impressive total of four things.
All are assignments for clients. One document needs a few changes and additions, the other three (!!!) need final edits and polishing. But I can’t seem to get to grips with any of them. And naturally, all of them are due this week.
So, instead of spending yet more time wringing my hands and shrieking, ‘Why!?’ at passing hadedas and monkeys (the neighbors are beginning to worry, and the wildlife doesn’t look happy either), I thought I’d write about it, and see if anyone else identifies.
Fear, Resentment, or Just don’t care
These are three common reasons for this kind of stuckness… All my past experience tells me that one or more of them is almost certainly the culprit.
Nope. Not even close. Not at all. My problems lie in the opposite direction.
If I just didn’t care, I’d feel okay about spending two hours doing a half-arsed job, send stuff off into the ether, and forget about it. My name isn’t going on most of these documents anyway… It’s mostly a form of ghost-writing, and I’m the ghost in question.
Put aside the fact that I have fairly inflexible (not to say unrealistic) values around quality and promise-keeping. And the fact that I actually believe in these clients’, and their work. There are selfish reasons too: I’m busy reestablishing my local consulting practice, so everything I produce needs to reflect well on my work.
Just to belabour the point a little further: I certainly, absolutely, indubitably, do care!
‘angry & resentful…’
Also, a ‘no’. This used to be more of an issue in the past, but I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries, and not actively encouraging people to abuse them.
So, it must be…
I don’t know about you, but I usually can’t see the final form of a piece of writing before wrestling with it for a while… Of course, I outline and plan, but every session at the keyboard remains a mixture of creation, problem-solving, reframing and reshaping – a learning and discovery process. I write from a learner-orientation, from ignorance into knowledge. And that’s exciting, but also leave me vulnerable, regardless of the content.
One big consequence of this is doubt, and specifically, self-doubt. Will I be able to pull it off, this time? (The hundreds of times I have, seem immaterial.)
There’s usually a little voice in my head, quietly murmuring (and occasionally shouting, like today), “This time, you’ll fail.”
Its close companion is a second little voice – and an even bigger cliché. Its favorite mantra: “It’s not good enough. And you can’t make it good enough. Because you’re not good enough. And never will be.”
Yep. That one’s a real a***hole. (And sounds suspiciously like my stepfather.)
What do to with all these damn voices?
Drinking or imbibing various other drugs was once de rigueur amongst writers – and, for all I know, it may still be. Psychoactive substances are a very human response to fear, and perhaps they work for some people. They didn’t for me. (The previous sentence is a contender for the coveted Understatement of the Year Award.) Anyway, that’s off the table.
But sometimes I can talk back and convince the voices to sod off, and leave me be. And sometimes, I can simply push through, carry on regardless. Occasionally, talking to someone helps – the voices quiet down, maybe even doze off for a bit, or are temporarily placated.
But sometimes – today – no matter what I try, they won’t stop shouting, and they won’t leave me be.
For today, I’ll do three things…
- Acknowledge what’s going on, and try not to make it worse by sinking into despair, grumpiness, inward or outward tantrums.
- Listen to the voices and try for a little detachment. I know they’re not true, however true they feel. But I’ll accept that they’re here, and let them have their say. They will shut up eventually. Most things really are self-limiting, if you don’t feed them.
- Do the things I can do (like writing this post; making that phone call) and wait for things to change.
And sooner or later, the space they used to fill with fear unclenches and opens up. It sparkles with potential. And the ideas flow, the phrasing comes, the work is done.
I hope it happens soon, and I look forward to that long moment of grace – a little taste of what some Buddhists call ‘the sky-like nature of mind.’
But, I think I’ve finally learned that it will come soon enough, if I get out of the way, and let it.
Here endeth the sermon for today. 😊
I’d love to hear your thoughts on getting stuck – or anything else for that matter. Feel free to comment below, or drop me a line at email@example.com.