I’ve started at least four different paragraphs for a blog entry this week – with topics as far-reaching as weathering transitions, prioritizing goals, post-online-school-year organizing, and summer trip planning. I looked through the idea list I keep, and checked out some quotes from people I like for inspiration. I hated absolutely everything I started. I do get writer’s block from time to time, and it’s scary to me. There’s that empty Evernote window staring me in the face, and it’s so easy to delete whatever doesn’t suit me, and then…it’s blank again.
So I noted that feeling in the pit of my stomach and pondered those scary emotions (“What if I’m tapped out? What if I never write anything decent again?! OMG, what if I never really wrote anything decent in the first place??”). Taking a dose of my own medicine, I stayed with the discomfort for a bit. Maybe there was something in all of this indecision and doubt that could eventually translate.
Do you ever look at a space and draw a blank, even though you think you should understand how it should be put together? Or stare at your new planner and not have a clue what to do with it, even though there are clearly marked dates and spaces to write stuff in? Take a look at the lengthy list of tasks you have and feel completely stuck? Yes, of course. I hear about it all the time.
Incidentally, the phrase “drawing a blank” comes from a centuries-old lottery game – participants’ names would be written on pieces of paper and placed in a container. Prizes would be written on pieces of paper and placed in a separate container. The lottery leader would draw a name, and then a corresponding prize paper for that person. The catch was, some of the “prize” papers had nothing on them; thus, some people would literally draw a blank – and win nothing. Fun times. But back to the post…
Sometimes we get locked up when
- we don’t have clarity about all we’re trying to do, and
- we have huge expectations for the results of whatever we’re doing.
Let’s take a space that seems overwhelming, for example. I asked someone recently, “What does this closet eventually want to be?” There was a pause. A dawning realization that the purpose hadn’t been settled on yet. It’s hard to know how to approach something if we don’t know where we’re going, so filling in that particular blank could make a big difference.
Or if you ponder the task list and start predicting, setting up those assumptions (“OMG, I’ll bet she’s expecting me to have the whole spreadsheet ready, formatted, and color-coded by Wednesday!!”). Are you sure about those predictions? Maybe you could check in before you freak out? Communicating about what a task should truly entail can make the difference between being up at 2 am stressing and sleeping well because you got a first draft complete and submitted. Good and done is often better than none.
When I settle down, I know from experience that if I start typing, stop, delete, and start again (yes, even four times), I’ll generally wind my way into something reasonably coherent. I fill in blanks with a few random things, which spark other, more relevant things—sort of like writing my own prize paper. Even if I don’t, it’s not life or death (even if sometimes it kind of feels like it). I’ll try again later.
I didn’t have clarity at first, but what I did know was that I wanted to stick to my posting schedule. I let go of my overwrought expectations of myself. Not long after I started this project, I took a little time-waster break and headed over to Instagram to scroll. There, as if by divine intervention, was post from @keeleyshawart* with the words: “For more creativity, lean into the discomfort of not knowing…preserve and keep new ideas even if they don’t make sense yet…”
I can assure you none of this made sense when I started. I’m hoping at least a little bit of it resonates now. Where could you lean into discomfort, and fill in a few blanks?
*a great account to follow if you’re interested in the Enneagram. Maybe that’s a subject I’ll tackle another time.