Recently, I wrote about how common it is to feel the impulse to undermine yourself and get derailed just when things are going well.
It’s great if you can identify what’s happening in time, and pull back from the brink.
This brought to mind a discussion with a Creative Focus Momentum System group.
Kathleen struggled to maintain momentum on her work for a few reasons, but at the root, it came down to the fact that essentially, she was between projects, and not quite sure what she was going to do next.
When you’re in the middle of something, you’re in conversation with yourself. When you put your work out in the world, you are in conversation with your audience. But blank pages are awful. You can’t build a conversation or a relationship (that’s how I think about my projects in the growth phase) with nothing to bounce off of and spark the next move.
I feel resistance and terror with every new project, even with something tiny, like writing this post. (OK, it wasn’t “terror” today. Discomfort, for sure.) It was a blank slate. There were no handholds for digging into it. Even though I was already talking about this idea of derailment last week, in the intervening days, I was still feeling stuck, like I’d lost the thread of the conversation in my mind.
So, what did I do? I went back to my systems. I reminded myself, where was I? I reread last week’s post. I opened a document where I’ve saved ideas for articles. I let that percolate a bit. I went off on a tangent (that will be useful for some blog posts I’m planning in the future). It took longer than I wanted it to. I’ve been at this for over an hour and haven’t gotten halfway through yet.
At the beginning of a project, I’d feel depressed, like nothing would ever work again. As I learned to pay attention to things that help, and created systems around creating my work, that horrible waiting time got shorter. Depending on the scale of what I’m setting out to do, it could be days, or half an hour.
No matter how short, though, during that time, I’m in a terrible mood. I’m horrible to people, and I feel bad. So I am motivated to get through it as fast as possible.
Permission to write literally anything: granted.
As you try these techniques, take notes. If something is effective, add it to a list of systems you can consult when feeling stuck. Then, all you have to remember is, check your list.
Derailment is part of modern life (and maybe part and parcel of the creative process?). Feeling stuck happens all the time. We have no choice but to learn to deal with it.
By the way, all of these techniques also apply if you’re already well into a project when you get derailed…only in that case, you have the advantage of already having a conversation with the work in your head…you simply have to remember what you were saying.
P.S. I wrote an article about restarting in general a while back. Check that out here.