Getting “Unstuck” While Writing
For me, hitting a roadblock means setting work aside.
A few weeks ago, I sent an outline to one of my editors. The feedback was “Need to shift gears on this one for a bit.”
I was all prepped and ready to sail through the final draft and deliver it to my client on time. Not only was the feedback to change the structure, but also my approach.
After noodling on it for half a day, I thought “I can’t do this. I can’t deliver this piece with the quality that is expected in the timeframe I have left. I need more time to think.”
And so… I gave myself more time.
I had a list of approved ideas from the client. I selected another one — one that I felt sure I could turn around quickly. I set the first article aside (for more than a week!) and refocused on the second. Worked through the second article and delivered it on time. (Well, delayed by one day due to flooding in my basement but that’s another story.)
I came back to the first article and found that I was still stuck. The break hadn’t given me the inspiration I needed. A colleague offered to take a peek and offered some suggestions. Breakthrough.
Adam Grant recently posted the following on Twitter:
I had a “mental shield” up (for whatever reason). I knew that I needed to continue to be productive, so it worked to set it aside — completely — and come back to it later. The combination of letting some time pass and bouncing ideas off of another person worked.
It was a learning experience. I hadn’t hit a block quite so bad before. I figured out how to work around the block when the creativity hadn’t struck yet… by allowing myself a bit of space.