Shaking the stuckness

What do you do when you feel stuck? When you want to put pen to paper, but the words just refuse to flow. How do you shake the stuckness?

A confession.

Sometimes stuckness is the name of the game. Almost a decade into this blogging game (well, I’m nearly at nine years here on, it’s not always easy to get the words to flow.

Slow flow of words is usually down to a lack of inspiration. Regular writing demands a constant stream of ideas. There are times I curse myself for having fallen into a weekly blogging schedule. Blogs are greedy.

Feeling stuck happens not just to the best of us, but to all of us, from time or time. It can be disheartening. I can waste so much time fretting about the absence of inspiration. That is bad enough. But wasting your time, gentle reader, is inexcusable. The last thing I want to do is squander your valuable time or your goodwill in having clicked on one of my posts.

What do you do when you feel stuck? How do you shake the stuckness?

Over the past week, I’ve come across two intriguing perspectives on the topic feeling stuck when writing, and how to deal with it. It might just come down to how you perceive and process your feeling of stuckness.

Be bored


Stuckness can be a nuanced thing. Feeling stuck – when you’re in the midst of it, when there seems no way out and through – can be tortuous. But could there also be some advantage to feeling stuck?

I came across an interesting argument the other day, that feeling stuck – and specifically feeling bored – can sometimes be the ground from which inspiration is born.

This theory is articulated by Nick Cave in Faith, hope and carnage, a book-length discussion of creativity between the singer and author Seán O’Hagan. Cave believes that boredom is potentially bountiful. Boredom can be what comes right before the breakthrough. Cave says:

“In my experience, boredom is often close to epiphany, to the great idea. In a way, that is very much the agony of songwriting – because boredom is just boredom until it’s not!”

Boredom is just boredom until it’s not. I love this idea. If necessity is the mother of invention, could boredom be the mother of inspiration? The moment before the “Eureka!” moment? And if so, could there actually be value in embracing boredom?

Be interested


It’s all very well to recognise that there might be some kind of silver lining to being or feeling stuck. But once you’ve recognised that you are stuck, is there a reliable way out of it? Is there a way to bring about the “Eureka!” moment? The same day I read the above words from Nick Cave, I came across some wonderful practical advice which might help you to do just that.

My friend Tony Jackson has made his welcome return to blogging with a great post entitled Stuck. Tony’s post is where I came across “stuckness”, a useful catch-all term for the condition of being stuck. I love the distinction Tony makes between the two different types of stuckness: being stuck; and thinking that you are stuck. If it’s the former, there may or may not be action that you can take to become unstuck. But if it’s the latter, it might be a simple case of coming at the stuckness from a different perspective.

He suggests an inspired way to reframe feelings of being stuck:

“As a first step, and this really is fundamental coaching/supervision thinking, be interested. Choose to find the ‘stuckness’ intriguing: what is it telling us? What can we learn or understand from it? Lean in, if you’ll forgive the cliché. Don’t shy away from it.”

Tony generously shares four ways of approaching your current stuckness. I won’t quote them here – please do yourself a favour and head to his blog to read them in full.

The moment right before that “Eureka!” moment

I suppose that choosing to find the stuckness intriguing is pretty much the approach that I have always taken, without ever having put it into words.

One approach I use when the words refuse to flow is to scrawl down whatever goes through my mind about my specific circumstances in that specific moment. If you can write, you should never be stuck for something to say. Even if that dreaded enemy (yet potential friend) boredom has kicked in, it’s unlikely in the extreme that your present moment will be as singularly boring as your mind might be trying to convince you that it is. Attempting to put things into words can bring any moment into a new and different focus. Inspiration might be concealed in that changed perspective. You could well be in the moment right before that “Eureka!” moment.

I would like to close with an ancient proverb (which I extend to you in the most positive of ways): May you live in interesting times.

May you be nothing but kind today, to yourself and to others.

May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.



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