How to Climb Out of a Hole

Today, I sat down in my room and closed the door. I lit a rich, purple candle – I think it’s some sexy plum scent, but I’m really not sure. I put on my best sound-cancelling earphones and turned on Maxence Cyrin. I closed the fifty bajillion tabs that were opened in Firefox, sacrificing all the myriad of amazing things I was reading about (Sherlock, largely, and maybe Thor…oh, and Facebook. Like I said, amazing).

With my fingers poised above the keyboard, I let them drop to write about…not writing.

“Well, that’s a waste of time,” that annoying backseat driver voice said in my head. “If you’re writing anyway, you should be working on something.”

I didn’t pay attention to the voice, instead letting myself realize that this was the writing I needed to be doing.

Why? Because I had discovered I was in a hole.

Absolutely not a Hobbit hole, dear reader. One of those holes where you find yourself paralyzed by the desperate realization that you have no idea how to get out. This is Shadow-and-Chance-muddy-pit-at-the-end-of-Homeward-Bound kind of hole. Oh, that’s right, I went there. Go get a tissue; you’re a mess just thinking about it.

I wrote and wrote and I carved out little handholds in the wall. My fingertips clawing, I slowly made my way up. I wrote down things without any intention of getting anywhere, waiting for the moment I was sure would come, where I would sliiiiiiide back down into anti-production.

It didn’t come.

Suddenly, I was on the other side. I blinked. I looked down at the hole – looked up at my clock – and realized that it took no time to actually fix this stupidy stupid feeling I had been having.

So, followers new and old, I’m going to share with you how to get out of your own creative hole. I’d like to think this could work for any area in which you are feeling stuck in indecision, uncertain how to move on and out with projects you may be working on.

1. Get out how you’re feeling. My ramble-fest started like this:

Where am I?

I feel like I’ve been drug through a labyrinth with a bag over my head. Like I know who I was before but I really just don’t know who I am right now or what I am supposed to be doing.

In one word, the answer is obviously “write.” (Survive, the brain jabs at me).

But I feel aimless. What do I write? What do I work on? (Do I look for water first or food? Should I sleep?)

2. Acknowledge what you need. Maybe you need a break. Maybe you need to do something else for a while. Maybe you need a kick in the ass. Maybe you need direction. That’s what I needed.

I need to organize. I need to know what I want to finish and how.

3. List out the things you feel like you have to do to get back into the swing of whatever it is you’re trying to tackle. For me, it was putting down the projects that I see as the most important. Limit yourself to 3-5 items. It would be easy to say, “I’m just going to write down everything so it’s all there!” but…then you’ll just be stuck again, drowning in the muck of words.

(I won’t go into all the detail I did in my document, but for example) a. My blog. b. A novel I’ve been finishing. c. Half of a novella that’s been sitting around. d. A series of short stories. e. A short story I’ve wanted to submit.

4. Explain to yourself why these certain things are important. What is it about the items you’ve chosen that make you pick those out over everything else you could be doing? Why is it worth your time?

My blog: of all the things I’ve been putting down on paper, I absolutely feel that what has been connecting me to the most people has been my blog. People are really drawn to what I have to share.

5. Prioritize by ease of finishing. For this, I’m using a rule you may have heard in the context of finances. When you have multiple things you’re trying to pay off, you should pay off whatever has the highest interest rate and the lowest balance. This way, you’re tackling something that is having an impact and that will make you feel accomplished in conquering. All I did here was put the items in order according to what would be easiest to finish.

Now, get to work! That first item is going to feel amazing when it’s done. Trust me.


Do you have any tricks for tackling difficult projects? Leave a comment below and share!   

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