Why we get stuck

If you’re creatively stuck then you’re not working.

That’s all there is too it. No matter the type of creative block you’re suffering from – writer’s block, artist’s block, thinking block, etc. – the reason you’re stuck is either because you’re exhausted (in which case you need to take a break) or because you’re not actually working.

For the latter the solution to keep moving is easy: get back to work. But procrastination (and, largely, the Internet) makes this difficult.

So we lie to ourselves and scrounge around the web in search of what we think is inspiration. In reality what we’re seeking is refuge from the work, because we’re at a point where what comes next isn’t as fun, or because we’re afraid of the risk of failure, or because we’re not entirely sure what the next step needs to be. All of which are merely excuses for not working.

If you want to get unstuck the solution is pretty easy and straightforward: just do the work.

If you’re bored of the work, find a way to make it interesting or start realizing you might be doing the wrong type of work. If you’re afraid of failure start looking at how failing can help you improve (rather than destroy you). If you’re not sure what step should actually come next, take any step; one step in the wrong direction is at least a step to identifying which direction not to go in (and therefore actually a step in the right direction).

Even if you’re feeling really stuck and wanting to work, sometimes the best thing to do is throw a wrench in the work. Have a random thought or throw a quick twist into what it is you’re doing (with constraints, by enlisting the help of a stranger, by doing the work with no direction in mind). There are even apps designed to help you do just that.

No excuses, do the work.

To quote the great Merlin Mann: “Distractions have never prevented a Writing Writer Who Writes from writing; distractions are an excuse proffered by Non-Writing Non-Writers Who are Not-Writing for why they are not writing.”