One of the most common drivers of the I’m NOT creative belief system is the very real experience of STUCK.
In the past, we’ve talked about how starting the creative process in the middle, rather than at the beginning – specifically, starting at the Inspiration & Insight step rather than with Sponge Work – can create the feeling of stuckness really fast and, ultimately, the feeling that we’re not creative – simply because we’re trying to force the big idea or moment of creation before we’ve done the groundwork.
We want creative fire, but we’ve yet to rub our sticks together.
The best response to this type of stuckness is to go back and do the preparatory work – be a sponge. Breathe, relax, open, become curious, soak up surroundings and move on to In The Flow by playing with ideas, making connections, until AH-HA – INSIGHT happens. This is the best response to stuck if you catch yourself trying to get the big idea right away because the creative process is a process – and you really can trust it, if you move from beginning to end.
And, sometimes, you still get stuck.
This is the kind of stuck that comes after you’ve done the work, while you’re in process, as you’re in the flow, sometimes even after you’ve been inspired and had a big insight.
For me, this type of stuck has a very unique feel. It’s icky frustrating. It has no energy. It feels sloggy. Aggravating.
Over the next couple of weeks (interspersed between some new resources, tools and creative fodder), I want to open a discussion about responses to stuck – in service of getting unstuck, but also in service of embracing stuck. There’s value in both.
Getting friendly with stuck, as well as having tools for un-stucking is probably one of the most important conversations we can have about creativity, because once we embrace our creativity and begin to bring more of our creative selves to everything we do, stuck is a natural part of the terrain.
What’s especially interesting about stuck is that it’s both a real state of being and also just a perspective, and therefore, not real at all:
She is stuck. She is, in fact, not progressing. She is exactly where she was an hour ago. She is not moving forward.
She feels stuck. She feels like she can’t make progress. To her, it seems like nothing has changed from an hour ago. She thinks she’s unable to move to forward.
When it comes to creativity and getting unstuck, the fact that we are not moving forward is much less real than the perspective of stuck. Here’s why:
When we perceive ourselves to be stuck, we also experience all the feelings of stuck. And because we feel stuck, we end up behaving in stuck-like ways – ways that reinforce the stuck. AND, as a result of that, we stay, well, stuck. Our perspective is what’s in our way, what’s keeping stuck.
As a coach working with creative professionals and entrepreneurs, I coach the perspective side of stuck rather than the “real” side of stuck simply because changing perspectives yields far better, more thrilling and innovative solutions than thinking our way out of stuck ever could. As Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” It’s really as simple as that.
Trying on different perspectives and seeing what your creation or project looks like through new eyes can be a difficult at first (it’s a concept that can be hard to wrap your head around to say the least), but once you get the hang of it, you have the key out of the stuck place, or any other perspective that’s not serving you, for the rest of your life.
Following is a little more about the how-to of shifting your perspective in order to get unstuck. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on stuck and ways out as we make our way deep into sticky.
Shifting Your Perspective from I AM STUCK to ____?
Whatever we are feeling, seeing and being, has a way of becoming THE TRUTH. When we get stuck in a perspective (just like when we get stuck in the creative process), the STUCK perspective can feel like the whole and certain truth – end of story. But it’s not. To shift your perspective, think of I AM STUCK as a pair of glasses you’ve put on specifically to look at your creative project. When you are looking at your creative project through the lens of your STUCK glasses, you feel stuck. Now, imagine you take off those glasses and put them down on a table. If you looked at your creative project now, wearing no perspective glasses at all, you’d feel nothing, think nothing – you wouldn’t being making judgements, you’d be blank). Now, imagine looking back down at the table and realizing there are five additional pairs of glasses besides your original STUCK pair. What those glasses are labeled does not matter in the least, and the idea is to simply label each with a possible new perspective and pick each up, one at a time, and look through them. As you become more agile at shifting perspectives, you can create new perspectives to try on that you know serve you in a various ways because they, for example, might be based on your values, your most powerful self, etc., but in just choosing even a crazy perspective, great insights and new feelings will come. A critical point to make at this juncture is that you are NOT trying to make it all better. You are not trying to find the pair labeled ROSE COLORED. You are using the different perspectives so that you can see your creative project with fresh eyes, discover ways out of stuck and commit to a new perspective of your choosing.
So, let’s go back to your table of glasses and experiement with labling each one with the perspective you’ll have when you put it on. One of the glasses might be labeled: THE DRAGON SLAYER PERSCEPTIVE. Another might be labeled: THE VACATION PERSPECTIVE. Perhaps one is the: DIRECTOR’S CHAIR PERSPECTIVE. While the fourth is labeled: THE NEWBORN PERSPECTIVE.
Look at your table of glasses to try on AND DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR CREATIVE PROJECT – just yet. First, pick up the DRAGON SLAYER glasses and put them on. What does the world look like through those DRAGON SLAYER eyes? What do you feel when you are in the DRAGON SLAYER perspective.
Now, look at your creative project while wearing the DRAGON SLAYER glasses. What does it look/feel like now? What’s possible for your creative project if you choose to wear your DRAGON SLAYER glasses? Now, take off your DRAGON SLAYER glasses and put on your VACATION perspective glasses. Do NOT look at your creative project. Instead ask, what’s the world look like through my VACATION glasses?, etc. Then, still in your VACATION perspective, turn your attention back toward your creative project.
So, that’s just one way of learning how-to shift your perspective – by playing with different perspectives and choosing the one that resonates with you most. There’s a bit more to process than that, but you get the idea.
When I work with clients using this type of perspective shifting technique which stems from a very core principle (empowered choice) in the co-active model I use in my coaching practice (developed by The Coaches Training Institute), it’s clear that it’s helpful to have a partner guiding you through the shifting process – simply because we really do tend to forget that we are always just wearing a pair of glasses labeled something and that we can swap them out at any time. Not to mention, that when we foret that our glasses are not part of us, it can be more difficult to think up other pairs of glasses on our own and notice the nuances of what we are saying/feeling when we wear a new pair. That said, if we practice shifting, we get way good at it.
To become more adept at shifting your perspective, here are a couple of tips and activities: First, it can help to avoid either/or, good/bad type perspective shifting and stick with trying on a handful of perspectives each time you practice. Second, simply practicing naming the perspective (or glasses) you are in/wearing at the moment (any moment) can build perspective-shifting muscle quick. To do this, realize that you are ALWAYS in a perspective and that your perspective shifts as you look at various aspects or things in your life, about yourself, etc. Take a moment a couple of times a day and ask: What I am looking at, experiencing or doing right now? And then: What is my perspective on that thing? Maybe look again at the same thing a few days later and name your perspective again – noticing if it’s different. Identifying your various and shifting perspectives on different things throughout the day is a great way to create more ability and freedom to change your glasses at will.
To the unreality side of stuck,