5 Simple Ways to Stop Feeling Stuck: Intro

If I had to choose one word to describe how I’ve been feeling over the past few months it would be stuck.

Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight, maybe it’s an excessive amount of chocolate (looking at you post Valentine’s Day sales), or maybe it’s just a life phase. Who cares. It doesn’t matter why, it just matters that feeling stuck is the worst.

Here are a few of the things that popped up when I asked the internet for a definition of stuck:

  • be or remain in a specified place or situation, typically one perceived as tedious or unpleasant.
  • be unable to progress with a task or find the answer or solution to something.
  • be unable to get rid of or escape from.

The thing with my particular flavor of stuck-ness is that nothing’s wrong. My job is great. I love my apartment. There’s no external reason for me to feel this way (besides Winter, but I have no control over the weather so I’m going to ignore that factor). It’s just me. I’m the problem.

Someone emailed me about this recently. They have young children and a busy life and want to devote more time to writing, but find that when they have time at night they are often so exhausted they just scroll through Facebook because it’s mindless.

I can so relate (not to the children part obviously but to the exhausted, lacking energy, defaulting to lazy habits part). I want to end my days feeling worn out by the things I’ve done and rich conversations I participated in—not bleary-eyed and sluggish from wasting hours staring at my phone.

Turns out, there’s actually a scientific basis for this exhaustion. Researchers have found that procrastinating leads to significant health issues and higher stress level. This specific study was on college students who procrastinated.

The stress of procrastinating in work or school or even on necessary life tasks (ex: that doctor’s appointment I’ve been putting off making for two years because I’m a lazy coward) is one thing. But what if we spend our entire lives procrastinating on our greatest aspirations? What if we delay living itself? That’s more than stressful. That’s soul sucking. It’s debilitating. That’s the kind of procrastination that leaves us with no energy at the end of the day.

I’ve written before about how to make yourself do something, but this week I want to explore what it means when we feel stuck and how we can get out of a Life Rut even when we feel trapped. I’ll be posting solutions that have helped me in the past and reporting on things other people have said helped them unstick their life.

Come back tomorrow for Part 1 where I’ll share my best tips and tricks for beating bad habits.

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Four Nugget Friday

Four Gems From This Week

What  I Watched: Order of the Phoenix

It’s no secret that I harbor a deep dislike of J.K. Rowling. However, this week I did re-watch Order of the Phoenix with some friends (who are more fun than me and going to Harry Potter World this weekend as I cry alone in my closet of an NYC apartment) and I have to hand it to her, J.K. knows story. She may be a franchise monster who will eat the dreams of children (including her own characters!) for money, but her imagination is brilliant. Sinking back into the world of HP reminded me how important atmosphere is to the creation of any world. It’s the number one reason I enjoy most movies, restaurants and books. I added that to my scene revision checklist to make sure I’m thinking about the mood of my work and not just the action.

What I Wrote: So. Freaking. Much.

I revised 24,000 words this week. And that was outside of my day job, which is…to revise words. Specifically, I focused on breaking up chapters that felt like they were dragging. I’ve also

I’ve also started a list of “weave-ins”—themes, ideas and characterizations I want to make sure are woven throughout the manuscript. Before each revision session I review the weave-ins and see if any of them need to be worked in to the chapter at hand.

I’m planning on finishing the rest of my revisions next week and sending it out for critique. Speaking of critique, if you know of anyone who likes destroying dreams for fun (besides J.K. Rowling, I already contacted her and she’s “not available”), I am in desperate need of some more critique partners.

At this point, I’m not even scared about other people reading and potentially hating my work. I imagine this is how parents feel when they send their children to college: they birthed this human being and are very invested in its success, but by that point, they don’t really what happens to it, they just want it out of the house.

What I Learned: Be Brave Enough to Want

The other day I was talking to a friend about work, and how I don’t feel like I’ve ever had to give 100% of myself to something. I’ve done hard things before—I wrote a 100 page thesis in college, I talked my way into jobs way above my skill level—but nothing that required all of me.

It’s easy to accept this because it makes things, well, easy. I can get through life by giving average effort. Things can be stress-free and without pressure. Only, as I was telling my friend this, I thought of a quote that I tacked to my wall in high school:

“The real Tragedy is the tragedy of the man who never in his life braced himself for his one supreme effort—he never stretches to his full capacity, never stands up to his full stature.” – Arnold Bennett

Why did I post this on the mirror of my vanity so I would see it every day when I got ready? Well because I was an extremely angsty teenager (duh). But also because when I was younger, I was brave enough to want things and to bear the burden of wanting them.

That quote has been echoing around my head ever since that conversation. I keep thinking about stature, and how I can’t know how tall I am unless I stand up straight. So I’m challenging myself to straighten my spine, extend my grasp, to give 100% to what I’m doing now and pursue the things that require the most of me instead of the least. I am trying to be brave enough to want things.

What I’m Working On: An Elevator Pitch

I have never called myself a writer. Even when I entered a profession where my job is writing, I still don’t use the word in relation to myself. And I definitely didn’t tell many people I was working on a book. I didn’t want to be the person at the party who tells you they’re a writer and then when you ask them what they’ve written has nothing to say.

Once I finished the book-like thing, though, I started sharing. I think I was so exhausted and the carpal tunnel from typing so much had set in and I just didn’t have the energy to project my force field of non-writerliness.

Because most people are annoyingly kind, whenever I mention I wrote a book, they ask me what it’s about. My only response so far has been, “I really need to work on my elevator pitch.”

An elevator pitch is the brief summary of your work that you’d pitch if you happened to run into your dream agent in—wait for it—an elevator.* I’m reading Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, which is supposedly a book about screenwriting, but is actually about how to tell good stories, and Snyder calls this the log line.

My project for next week is to come up with this line. So next time someone politely asks me what my book is about I can sound like someone who actual has a basic grasp of the English language instead of vomiting something up about high school girls in a persistent vegetative state.

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