Advice For Getting Unstuck

Photo: Joey Espina

Photo: Joey Espina

Launching this blog has been a welcome challenge as a creator. There are self-imposed deadlines that I need to meet several times a week meant to keep me moving forward when I’d rather eat milk and cookies and watch Netflix. 

I consider myself first and foremost a storyteller. The last few years have been spent developing and honing my skills as a visual storyteller - a filmmaker. Though I’ve written many of the projects I’ve produced, dialogue meant to be heard out loud is completely different from words meant to be read on a screen or page. 

I learned that lesson as I was writing Inside, my book about character and leadership, released last year. I wanted to make sure that it would be approachable and of value to the people that would read it. Eventually, I would be asking people to open up their wallets and spend money on something I had made. (Which I need to start doing with my breakfast tacos - they are flame y’all!) It had to be my best possible work. But sometimes ambition and desire for perfection can get us stuck. It’s said that perfect is the enemy of good. So here are a few things I do when I’m working and resistance shows up to keep me from finishing the job. 

SORKIN WALK-AND-TALK

Have you ever watched The West Wing or the Newsroom? Aaron Sorkin has these famously long scenes where two or more characters walk down the hallways of The White House or the corridors of a TV studio. They bounce phrases off one another, repeating them like a chorus, driving us through the conflict of the moment to the ultimate point. They walk. They talk. It’s simple and effective. The movement and details keep us engaged and connected. The only thing cooler would be two characters sleep walking and talking. Yo, that’s not s bad idea! Lemme jot that down.

When I get stuck in an idea, I like to go for a walk-and-talk. I ask questions of my friends and I seek out their perspectives. Steve Jobs would often take his employees for walks when they needed to work out a problem. Funny enough, Sorkin was able to write out one of these walks in his movie about Jobs, NOT the one with Ashton Kutcher! Sometimes, just the dialogue over an idea is enough to clarify what I’m trying to say. And I get a little exercise in, too. Helps me work off all them dang cookies I eat. 

WHERE WORDS FAIL, MUSIC SPEAKS

I know, this one seems like an obvious choice. For me, having music on in the background is key to letting the writing process unfold. Pay attention to the kind of music that works for you. My best friend is an introvert, when he writes he notices that music with lyrics can distract him. He likes listening to film scores when he writes. For me, using the same playlist every time is key. Familiar songs serve as a musical cue to let my brain know it’s time to get to work. Here’s a link to my Spotify playlist that I use when writing!

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME

Anyone that knows me knows my first love was basketball, I feel at home on the court, and the old man can still play! So when the blank page stares at me for too long, I lace up my Jordan’s and hoop for a bit. Much like the walk-and-talk, physical activity can help our ideas start to flow. The increased blood flow gets our brains working and releases hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin that can increase our creativity. If you’re not a fan of basketball: 1. You’re playing yourself. 2. That’s okay, make your favorite form of physical activity happen - soccer, tennis, toe-wrestling. (No lie, that’s an actual sport!) You can even invite a friend along and work through your obstacles together. Y’all can toe wrestle like a mug until the creativity starts flowing. 

The key is not to let any of these suggestions become a distraction to the work that you’re doing. A ten minute walk can easily turn into, “lets get lunch, oh and watch a movie after that, oh and maybe we should have a tickle fest.” At some point, you have to sit your butt in the chair, at the computer, and get the words down on the page. There’s no way around doing the real actual work. Which brings me to my last recommendation:

LOVE THE WORK

There are going to be days when I wont feel like writing, I’ll have plenty of excuses as to why I just can’t today.

“‘I’m a little under the weather.”

“I have too much other work to do.”

“I have friends visiting from out of town.”

“Cookies taste so much better.”

I love that I get to share my thoughts with you. I love that you might be able to apply the things that I’ve learned to your own lives. My hope is that we can learn from each other so that we can be stronger together. I don’t want to trip over the rock that you just stumbled over. Show me how you avoided it, and encourage me to keep going so that we can go further together. 

Hope you’re having a great week, Crazy Ones!