You know the feeling, I’m sure. You’re working on a piece of writing that really matters to you, but it’s not going well. You’re frustrated. You keep tinkering and tweaking, trying to make it work. But it’s just not happening. Should you just give up and go with the feeling that it’s beyond your reach? Or do you keep battling on, trying to wrestle your words into submission?
From time to time, I’ve done both of these things. I’ve just thrown up my hands and put something aside, vowing to return to it some time in the future. I’ve also tried to pummel my prose into shape, which doesn’t work too well. More recently, I’ve tried a different strategy: letting go. This seems to work better for me and might for you as well. Here’s the approach I’ve used:
Stopping for a while: First, I put whatever is frustrating me down temporarily. I just stop fussing with it and release it. That doesn’t mean giving up on it, just giving in to it — for the moment. I stop resisting and rest for a bit.
Doing something different: Second, I take a break and do something completely different, preferably something active. I may take my dog Ryder for a walk. If it’s around lunch time, I might take a real lunch break instead of just grabbing something quick from my kitchen. Anything to relax and re-energize myself.
Sitting quietly: Third, I take a mental-health break by just sitting quietly for a while in a meditative way and letting ideas about what I’m working on drift through my mind. I’ll just play with different ways of saying what I’m trying to say, without any pressure. Sometimes something surprising pops up — just a fleeting thought that seems promising. I let it spin itself out for a bit and then try to catch it in a calm, relaxed way.
Starting over: Once I have a glimmer or hint of something that seems pleasing and workable, I go back to the page: I get it down on paper. Just having a fresh angle often seems to jog me loose and get me juiced again. At this point, I usually make a decision to “fight through it” — to keep going until I have something down on paper that’s better and stronger than what I had before.
Getting stuck and feeling that you’re spinning your wheels is definitely not a great place to be. Any suggestions for how you handle this kind of hurdle?