After two days of brainstorms, sketches, team sessions, and preliminary work on a massive project, I decided to come up for some air. I realized that I’ve been hunching over my desk for hours. My face feels like it will slide off my skull, and my eyeballs are on fire from staring at the monitor all day. My wrists ache from the repetitive movement of working at my computer. I eye my workspace like it’s some kind of trap waiting to spring and pull me back in again. It’s littered in sheets of paper, all covered in scratchy sketches and words; ideas trying to form. As though to add mockery on top of defeat, my tea is tepid. Nothing is going in the right direction. My impulse is to go to the window, open it, and then dump the contents of my desk into the street below.
Don’t judge me.
We’ve all been there. We just don’t often discuss it. We’ve gotten used to the elephant in the room, and I think it’s time to take it for a walk.
It’s a strange moment, when you realize that you aren’t going to get anywhere with something you’ve been poring over for days (or weeks, months, even years). Invisible walls rise up around you and trap you in a creative impasse. I call it the Stuck Room.
How do you escape?
A quick glance at Google offers oodles of options for escaping this Stuck Room. Everyone has advice. I have advice. Although at even the best of times I catch myself not taking it.
The worst part about the Stuck Room is that there are no walls and you take it with you wherever you go.
As a creative, you’re not supposed to talk about getting stuck. For years it’s like we were supposed to pretend it didn’t even happen. Everyone knows about it, but nobody acknowledges it. Hello, elephant! Don’t want to startle the client, worry your boss, piss off your teammates. So we just sit in our Stuck Rooms, silently Googling for help/inspiration/anything, hoping nobody will notice, and desperately hoping the job gets done on time.
Don’t let the feeling trick you into thinking you’re alone in your Stuck Room.
The people behind Death to Stock (truly an incredible labor of love for the world of stock photography) asked their community to share their stuck moments and methods for getting unstuck. This was months ago, before this current instance of Stuck Room, but the act of just typing out a time when I was stuck felt like finding a door and stepping out of the fog of creative block. The fact that an entire creative community had at some point been in the same place that I was just then, felt phenomenal. The knowledge that others are actually there in that Stuck Room with you, even if you can’t see them, is somehow reassuring.
Even The Oatmeal weighed in on the conversation about struggling with creativity.
If you have a trusted someone – it’s ok to bring up the Stuck Room. They are trusted for a reason. Maybe they can help, even if it means just listening to you gripe about your project.
Then I remembered an article I’d read a while back about struggling with a block – any block – not just creative, but I couldn’t remember its name. I tried Googling it and although I didn’t find the article, I found a laugh:
How about that for self help?