The other day when I was out for a run, I looked up at Longs Peak, the big mountain that looms over my town, and I got to thinking about the peak I’ve been climbing for five years — writing my newest book.
It’s been a long hard climb with a lot of detours. By far the longest writing project of my life.
I thought about how many creative seasons I’ve gone through with this project… and by creative seasons I mean the natural arising rhythm that starts with getting the urge to create something… feeling that urge, tending it…
until it builds into something you can work with… you find a way in (not THE way in but A way in…)
And you explore… you wonder… you wander… you make…
You get afraid, daunted by the scope, how much you want this to work… how sure you are you don’t have the chops to make it work…
At some point, you may hit a hard dark lost place… and you almost succumb to despair that you can’t do it. But you ask for support! You learn what you need to take the next step. You try something and move forward.
And finally – days, months, even years later you FINISH! You cross the finish line! Completion is yours. You celebrate!!!
Then you SHARE WHAT YOU MADE. You give the gift of your creative labors to your world in some way.
Then comes the season of rest… and often, at least for me, let down and sadness but that’s sweet and natural and to be welcomed.
Now is the time to sit in the fallows, where there is neither the afterglow/ let down of finishing nor the urge to create. You wait… and work with your mind that says “You will never make anything again!!!” until you the urge returns and off you go.
Of course, parts of these creative seasonal shifts are easier than others. For sure I got stuck writing my book because I didn’t follow my own advice especially the part about getting support. You may be stuck in one season or another but you do not have to stay stuck.
Maybe you get bogged down in despair when your project naturally (yes naturally) gets tangled up and you aren’t sure what it’s even about but you are sure nobody cares.
Or maybe your point of stuckness is the middle? You get so far and then you go back to the beginning and start again, thinking that if you just twiddle with this or rewrite that then you can keep going and finish. But then you get to the middle again and you choke and go back to the beginning. Eventually, you either stop creating all together or you collect a dazzling array of half-finished bits that make you feel like crap.
Or perhaps you have trouble starting? You confuse beginning with knowing exactly where to begin and since there is no perfect beginning and the beginning almost always shifts and changes once you have made it to the end of whatever you’re making, you never begin because you don’t know the perfect beginning. (What a mind and tongue twister!)
Or maybe you halt when it’s time to show what you’ve created to your world? Is that where you mumble and duck, where your creative work languishes? Do you turn this into a reason to not create again because what’s the point?
I did all of these with the earlier iterations of my book. All of them. So allow me to look you in the eye and say with love, “It does not have to be this way.”
There is no reason you can’t move through each season with clarity and focus.
Here’s an exercise to help you get unstuck:
Where do you get stuck now?
Be brief and kind — no bullying yourself.
What story do you tell yourself about why what you just wrote can’t change?
Write for five minutes without stopping ‘The story that I tell myself in that particular moment of stuckness is…”
What’s your source for this story?
As if you were a newspaper reporter and can’t go to press without your sources being verified. How will you prove your story to your editor?
What is one thing you can learn (JUST ONE) to take one step forward from where you are now?
Your mind will say that one thing or one step is not enough so you should just forget it about it. Your mind will tell you to go big or go home or to stay small and safe. But that is just your mind trying to keep you defended. That is what it does. Ignore it with love.
Finally ask yourself: what’s the cost of staying put?
Wherever you get stuck in the seasonal round of creating, what’s the cost? Are you willing to keep paying it? If you are, great! If you aren’t, you don’t have to even though parts of you assure you there is nothing to be done. Please know there is. There always is.
I wish you the confidence and freedom to enjoy wherever you are and to always let the cycle begin again. Stuck is not a place you ever have to live again.