Every now and then, while working on a project, you’ll reach a point where you’re banging your head against the keyboard. Nothing is working. Creativity has taken a nose dive into the abyss. The client keeps telling you, “That’s not it.” You can’t find the glitch in the code. The colors aren’t right, the story is a hot mess…and you’re wondering why you thought this project was a good idea to begin with.
We’ve all been there, and we’ll end up there again. It happens.
The question is, how do you handle it? Do you keep pushing through the muck or do you get up and walk away? One would think that walking away from a project is quitting. That all depends on how you handle walking away. If you walk away and never come back, then yeah, that’s quitting.
But if you walk away for a breath of fresh air to clear your head, that’s a different story.
The mental blocks come from thinking too hard. You’re so focused on finding that perfect solution, your mind can’t relax. You often don’t see a solution that’s sitting right in front of your face.
Here’s a short list of things to do when you walk away:
- Take a shower (or a soak in the tub, or the pool, or jacuzzi, use what you’ve got! Around here we call this “Shower Power”)
- Wash dishes
- Do laundry
- Clean a room
- Go for a walk/work out
- Take a nap
- Watch a movie
- Read a book
- Brainstorm with a friend or colleague
Some of the side effects are a sparkling sink, Mt. Washmore reduced to nothing, the bed made and you’ll get some exercise. The primary effect is you’re getting your mind off the project. The moment you stop thinking about it is the moment your mind relaxes and the solutions flood in.
Walking away is all about gaining space and affording yourself the silence needed to LISTEN. That little heart-voice is so hard to hear with so much static going on. Once you rid yourself of that static, the heart-voice comes in loud and clear.
Do you already have a system for dealing with project frustration? Tell us about it in the comments!
Interestingly, I thought the article would be about walking away from a project. I started writing, and pretty much finished, a huge project and walked away. I had to push myself through every minute of it.
Deb Dorchak says
There’s that too, Stephanie, knowing when done is done, or the satisfaction (or utter relief) that a project is over.
Would it have been less of a struggle if you did some walking away in the middle of it?
Paul Atreides says
Great advice, Deb.
I used that tactic when trying to work through design issues at the office. I’d get up and walk around, stand out in the parking lot, maybe go have a short chat with a co-worker (not even mentioning the design problem). Nine out of ten times the solution would pop right into my brain. I could go back to the computer and make the change, and forge ahead.
Deb Dorchak says
Paul! So good to see you here, thanks for stopping by.
You’ve got the right idea. Once you let it go, the door is wide open for what you need.
Carrie Ann Lahain says
Poop scooping the back yard is my go-to activity for stepping away from a project. I’m outside, body focused on using this terribly inefficient two-handed scooper, trying to get Chihuahua “pebbles” into its huge maw (like using a tweezer sometimes), and, oh, how the mind loosens. And loosening your grip (stranglehold) on a project or problem allows circulation to return…fresh air, new possibilities. And fewer flies the yard.
Deb Dorchak says
Hey, whatever works, right? The bigger the block, the cleaner the house and yard!
Aly Pain says
I can’t agree more with this one, Deb! The last few months I’ve really own my need for body movement and outdoors. Although I’ve always been an athlete, moving to work out is different than moving to feed my soul. Since making that distinction and making both part of my routine for a few months, I feel much greater access to my creativity and more volume for my intuition.
Taking creative breaks is crucial to getting to the best result. And sometimes that means letting go of what I thought something had to look like to make room for a way better solution. The side effects of a clean house and breathing fresh air aren’t bad either!!
Kim Eldredge - New Frontier Books says
Absolutely! I keep a list of “I’m stuck” activities that can help. I set a timer and browse Pinterest or my fav stock photography website. Read a trashy novel or blog. Go out to lunch. Or even just jump in the truck and drive to the Post Office.
Sometimes all it takes is a break!