The Art of Getting Unstuck, Pt. 1

Blogging again at last! It’s been an unusual sort of summer, friends, but I won’t use that as an excuse for not writing. I thought for a while, even, about shutting down the blogs altogether, given that it’s been difficult for me to keep up consistent posting and I have plenty of other writing projects. But the thing is–I really like blogging. And I think it’s ultimately beneficial, even if my practice of it is rather inconsistent at times.

I’m going to write about my upcoming projects and what the new blogging approach/schedule will be in Pt. 2 of this post, but before that I wanted to meditate on how we deal with stymied productivity and where I specifically encounter stumbling blocks.

I’ve written on here before about momentum and creating solid foundations for ourselves, but I think there’s something unique about overcoming inertia, especially without the excitement of a brand new project. It requires introspection, refocusing, and self-forgiveness–it’s important to know what’s not working for you, but fixating on your lack of activity can be much more damaging than your run-of-the-mill distractions. It’s all too easy into falling into a self-criticism spiral–“I should be doing better”–instead of making a practical assessment of your progress and adding adjustments.

It helps, too, I think to first consider each task independently. If I’m not completing my daily Duolingo and not practicing my banjo, I want to determine why my enthusiasm for each individual project is flagging. Am I frustrated by my lack of progress on the banjo? Are my current Duolingo exercises not as fun or applicable to my studies? Then, do these issues contribute to each other? If Duolingo helps me create momentum each day, does not doing it have a negative impact on other projects? If so, how do I get back to it? Or with what do I replace it?

For me personally, I think I occasionally fall prey to different breeds of paralysis. Sometimes, for example, I am too busy to blog, which I decided way back was perfectly okay. Busy is fine; busy can be very, very good, in fact. However, other times, I am too preoccupied to blog–or write–or study. And that’s not good.

It’s been about a year since I decided to give this freelancing/contracting life a try and it has not always been easy. I’ve had some lousy experiences and some distinct setbacks. I’ve learned mid-process that different projects or positions weren’t what I thought they would be and I’ve had to made quick decisions about what was worth doing and what might be a toxic working relationship. Navigating this has taken its fair share of mental energy and I don’t begrudge myself that, because I value everything I’ve learned, even when it’s unpleasant.

But it’s also been in the back of my head that I might fail, might have to go back to a more traditional employment model. I accepted that this would be a possibility from the outset and I tried to make the best possible peace I could with it. What was scarier was the idea that trying freelancing might do real damage to any traditional career I might pursue, that potential employers would see this past year as a black mark on my resume–that I could be, in a sense, making myself unemployable.

This may or may not be a wholly rational thing to worry about, but more importantly I know it wasn’t a productive sort of worry and it’s plagued me during times when I would have liked to embrace the creativity and new possibilities of this alternative adulthood.

However, I’m happy to say that I’ve just about put that kind of thinking behind me entirely. I’ve made enough progress and cultivated enough opportunities that while  I’m not thriving financially just yet, I’m doing well enough to justify continuing my current approach. This fall, not only do I have a exciting set of freelance projects to pursue, I’m also going to be adjunct teaching for the first time, with the option of adding another institution in the spring. I’m continuing with Vproud because they’re awesome and I’ve ditched my other commitments that just weren’t working out.

In other words, I have enough going on professionally that I also have the peace of mind to also devote my energies to personal projects, volunteering, and writing.

Would I still like to add a steady paying project or two to my repertoire and balance out the relative uncertainty of freelancing? Yes, definitely. Do I need to settle into a regular consistent work schedule to build momentum? Oh so much. In fact, I’m really looking forward to solidifying some structure.  Should I shake up my approach to particular projects? Totally–more on that next time.

But I’m getting there. And that is encouraging.

It’s not always easy to do the kind of self-examination that shows you why different approaches or projects aren’t working for you. But it is important. I’m sure I’ll have more introspection to do this time next year, because I’ll have gotten stuck in different ways. But I’ll also be able to get unstuck again.

How do you recognize and overcome inertia? 


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