Growth

Four Habits that Will Get You Out of A Rut

It doesn’t need to be pointed out that I haven’t been around lately.

If you haven’t noticed, then disregard that statement. Obviously it’s you who hasn’t been around in awhile. Where have you been, by the way?

As always, I like to fess up and lay it all out of the table – my thoughts that is, not supper. That you can collect for yourself from the pans on the stove. That’s the way I roll, baby.

Uh-hum, quit circumventing the issue and get to the point, narrator. What I am meaning to say is…

I’ve had writer’s block.

Let me back it up a minute. I have, in fact, written lots of posts during the time I’ve been AWOL. In the same fact – I haven’t actually finished any of them. They started off strong, but dried up quickly like dollar-store felt pens.

Lately, I haven’t written much more than a grocery list on a scrunched up post-it note. I won’t dispute that it was quite an eloquent grocery list, but still, not quite worthy of publishing here.

I’ve been in a rut; one that has two grooves to it. The first one is marred by a paucity of interesting thoughts and inspiring ideas worthy of committing to HTML. Basically, I’ve been brain dead. I realize that admission doesn’t bode well for the rest of this post, but bear with me. It might get interesting yet.

The second groove? Well, I’ve also lacked the words with which to capture ideas, even if I could manage decent ones. In short… me aint writing good sh*t.

If good ideas are the essence of your inspiration, then the words are the tools with which you manifest it. My ideas and vocabulary have sucked lately.

I hope you feel sorry for me because I sure do.

But here’s the thing. I suspect having writer’s block is no different than getting stuck in any other rut one might find oneself in at various times in life. (The fact that I have referred to a group of people, collectively, in the singular form of “one” shows you just how blocked I am. If ExLax was psychoactive, I would be a junkie by now.)

But still. Is not having any good ideas much different than getting stuck in the same old patterns of unhealthy eating, or being consumed by the monotony of the daily grind’s unchanging melody in any other way? Is it any different than losing your keys for the umpteen millionth time or continually putting off an important chore to float off in the twitterverse for hours upon end?

It’s all a form of getting stuck. Stuck on words, stuck for ideas, stuck on behaviours, stuck in repetitive thinking patterns. Stuck in a sticky situation. With only a stick to get you unstuck, if you can stick to the effort it takes to get unstuck.

Can anyone help me out here? You can see I’m still stuck.

“Why yes, I can!” says me. I am talking to myself, even though I have all of you here. Because I can’t hear you, while I can hear me. In my head of course. I dare not talk out loud to myself, lest it seems abnormal and frightening to the fly sitting on the desk beside me. I am an animal-lover, after all.

And now for the conclusion of the post…

“Wait a minute!” you say. “How can you conclude a post when you haven’t even gotten to the point!”

“Aha, but I have!” I reply. The whole point is here – if you look for it closely.

I don’t think that ruts have much to do with being stuck. They have to do with being uninspired. The more uninspired you are, the less motivated you feel to do anything about it. The less you do about it, the more you stick to the same old groove for the simple reason that any other groove … is not really that inspiring anyway.

And that’s how you get stuck.

But there are three ways to get out of writer’s block, or any other ruts that hold you captive.

 

  1. You get started, even if you’re not inspired.
  2. You keep at it, even if the tools you have aren’t the best, or you aren’t doing as well at “it” as you would like.
  3. You keep going, knowing that you will only get inspired and find the tools by actually doing the thing you want to do. You won’t get anywhere by just thinking about it.
  4. You commit to learning, rather than mastering, your craft (or new habit). Learning allows you to make changes that will help you get continually better. Mastering is an either/or scenario that makes it more likely you will give up when things aren’t going well.

 

In essence, people are always wondering how or where they can find the motivation to change the way things are for them.

They can’t. They have to start making those changes, even when they don’t feel like it. The motivation part comes later.

Admittedly, this was a pretty terrible post, even by my meandering and sometimes nonsensical standards. It wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t easy. But it was a post. I wrote it. And by writing I am slowly getting back into the writing groove.

It can only get better from here. (“That’s an understatement”, you say. “It surely couldn’t get any worse.”)

Be warned though, there are also a few things that will keep you stuck in a rut, so watch out for them too:

 

  1. Thinking something is only worth doing if it can be done perfectly.
  2. Waiting for inspiration to move you towards action (in times of stuck-ness, it is the action that creates the inspiration not the reverse!).
  3. Using distractions as excuses for not putting the time in.
  4. Giving up and not bothering at all.

 

You can never get unstuck if you stop trying to get unstuck.

And expecting perfect execution of your efforts, or immediate mastery of your strategies as deal-breakers for whether or not you will try in the first place… is like drowning on purpose so no one notices you’re a clumsy swimmer.

On a final note –

I want to thank you from the bottom of my restless heart for sticking with me through this sloppy post. Am I happy with the way it turned out? Not incredibly, no.

But I’m happy I wrote it because it means … I am writing again. I hope my sloppy post gives you permission to get out of your own rut.

Share your tips for getting unstuck or out of a rut in the comments below. And if you are experiencing writer’s block like I was, check out my friend Bryan Hutchison’s post on helping your creativity by decluttering (your mind and environment) – over at positivewriter.com.