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Three Weird Things to Check When You’re Stalled

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Your latest creative project is bopping along right on schedule, you’re getting words on the page, paint on the canvas or notes on the scale. All is well.

Until it’s not. You hit a wall and suddenly you’re stuck. Completely.

If you’re like me, you growl, smack a few keys, back up, and approach the issue from another angle.

Still stuck.

Maybe you let it sit for a day or two. Still nothing. It’s like there’s a fog over the whole project and you just can’t see anything ahead.

In these situations, there are some weird things that could be causing the creative stall, things we don’t always think about. But we don’t get stalled in a vacuum. It comes from somewhere. And often, that somewhere is closer than we realize.

Sleep Deprivation

How often do we push to do “just one more thing,” before we call it a night? If we want our brain to hum along at optimum creativity, we need to give it time off every day. This means sleep–in whatever quantity our system needs. We all require different sleep levels, but one thing is the same: if we cheat on sleep, eventually our muse says, “See ya. I’ll be back when you’re rested.”

Unrelated Stress

So, number two son isn’t doing so well in school? Number three daughter has a boyfriend that, well, is also affecting your sleep cycle? Unrelated life stresses, both great and small, may be the culprit behind our derailed project.

Sometimes, our brain is so clogged with important, urgent stuff, we can’t focus. Journaling may help clear out the mental clutter. At other times, we need to cut ourselves some mental slack. Treat your overloaded brain like you would a frazzled child—with gentleness and compassion.

Wrong Direction

And sometimes, yep, we’re stalled because our brain knows we’re headed in the wrong direction. If that’s the case, we need to be brutally honest and change course, even when that means backing up to where things derailed.

Could one of these have derailed your creative momentum? How do you move forward after a creative stall? Please leave me a comment and let me know.

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    The Conversation

  1. Jamie Janosz says:

    Check, check, check… Yep – I can definitely relate to this post! I feel like I’m so much more in control when I’ve had a few extra hours of sleep. Plus, it seems like stress targets me now more than ever before. Good reminder, Connie!

  2. doris neumann says:

    Good morning Connie, it seems that I have about 5 different large projects I want and need to tacke:) a good reminder to self……..concentrate on one project at a time and put the others on the back burner…….(without stressing)…… not always easy to do without neglecting the day to day responsibilities we all have. Love you!

    • Connie Mann says:

      It’s a constant battle, isn’t it? To try to move forward with a project without neglecting everything else! I tell hubby that if the house is clean, the writing is not going well. But if the house is a mess, generally, that means the writing is humming along!

      I say do what you can and then rest and regroup! You’ll get there, Doris!!!

  3. Lisa Rayns says:

    Today, I’m fall house cleaning and I’m finding the more clutter I remove, the easier it is to think. That with the time away from it SHOULD keep me from stalling when I get back to it. My fingers are crossed.

  4. Martha McDonnough says:

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. I find I am at my most creative when I’ve had a good night’s (or several good nights’) sleep. And sometimes, I just need to listen to my characters, especially when they know where they’re going better than I do.

    • Connie Mann says:

      I love that Martha–sometimes we really DO need to just let the characters lead! Good for you, realizing that–and that sleep makes a difference. We often try to pretend it doesn’t!!

  5. Jan Jackson says:

    Okay, you’re starting to freak me out now. LOL! Timely post. I can deal with 1 and 3. Lack of sleep, I can fix. Wrong direction, I can fix. It’s stress that’s the killer. And I also think there’s one more, Fear. For me, when I first started writing, it was to entertain myself. But when you are writing for publication and deadlines, it changes the whole game. Fear and doubt can paralyze you. I keep telling myself, FAITH NOT FEAR. That’s my mantra. I have to believe in myself which is difficult when rejections keep rolling in. Thanks, Connie. Love your blog, it keeps my focus where it needs to be.

    • Connie Mann says:

      I think you’re absolutely right, Jan! It’s a great one to add to the list! Fear can completely paralyze us–especially when the rejections keep coming. I admire your persistence and determination to Just. Keep. Going. You will get where you want to be with your writing–I have absolutely NO DOUBT!!

      SO glad you enjoy the blog!! That means so much!

  6. I think the guilt of being at home, doing something I love gets to me. I take unnecessary phone calls, clean house, run errands, and do favors throughout the day. If I worked in a regular office outside the home, these things would have to wait and other people would respect that. I let my friends and family take advantage of me because I feel like I’m not REALLY working.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Hi Sandra–I think every single person who works from home can relate. My best advice? Treat it like it’s a job–and when you treat it that way, those around you will, too. I don’t answer personal calls when I’m working and often close the garage so it looks like I’m not home. I take care of my dear ones AFTER I’ve gotten my work done! Try it and let me know how it goes!! You can do it. And it’s NOT wrong to set those boundaries!

  7. I’ve always been in awe over the authors who can continue to write during divorces, deaths, etc. When I have too much emotional stress, I just can’t be creative. That being said, the solution is probably to just sit your butt down in the chair no matter what, and see what eventually comes out. (Something’s gotta come out sooner or later, right?)

    • Connie Mann says:

      Tiffany, I’m in awe of those folks, too! I think our responses may depend on our personality and the particular situation. There have been times when my writing was my coping mechanism during a very stressful time, and other times, I couldn’t write a word. Follow your heart, and your gut, and be kind to yourself when life gets hard!

  8. Calisa Rhose says:

    I completely agree, Connie. Huby and I care for his post-stroke father and I’m with him all day. Say he’s in a good mood, happy, doing his thing- all is well. Then blink-his mood flips to unhappy, angry- ready to move across the country (this happened tonight) and, literally, in a blink and there went my whole night. I’ll write tomorrow…maybe.

    • Connie Mann says:

      My heart goes out to you, Calisa. Being a caregiver can be so hard, and unpredictable and, as you said, can derail the most carefully laid plans. Be kind to yourself. Write when you can; don’t beat yourself up when you can’t. Know I’m standing with you. Let me know how I can encourage you…