On getting unblocked: Spin a few plates

Image: Elisabetta Foco

I’ve known people who’ve set out to write a book (or some other similar project of epic proportions). It starts out — everything is flowing fine. Then, they get stuck. Blocked. Paralyzed.

So what do they do? They hunker down, dig in their heels, and obsess over it. Soon they can barely function. Their relationships go to waste. They can barely eat, sleep, or whatever else we humans do on a regular, healthy basis. Some of them turn to the bad stuff to get unblocked. This is when it starts going pear-shaped really quick.

Here’s a little bit of advice I heard not too long ago…

Try to have 3–5 creative projects going at once.

So, let’s say you’re an author working on your novel — start writing in your journal, work on a piece for the New Yorker, get started on some short stories and novellas, etc. This way, if you get stuck on one, you can walk away from it, move on to another project, and still be keeping those creative juices flowing. Then, when you go back to the thing you were stuck on, you’ll be seeing it with fresh eyes and you’ll be more likely to crush it.

It sure beats banging your head on a wall until something (usually, your head) breaks.

I know it sounds counterintuitive. But having a small, manageable handful of plates spinning at once can lead to incredible creative results.

Crap. I think I dropped one. Where’s that broom again?


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