Overcome Creative Blocks and Resistance to Starting and Completing Projects
By Debra Lynne Katz
Tonight, I’d like to talk about a critical phase in any creative process that determines whether one will actually move forward with a project or endeavor…or not. Whether the end goal is writing a research paper, a chapter of a novel, a blog post; painting a portrait, or moving forward with a challenging remote viewing session, many, most, maybe all people will at some time in their life struggle with this phase that I could call the “pre” embarkment stage or “the phase of ultimate resistance” or for those poetic types who are metaphorically inclined, the “storm before the rainbow”.
Some will hit this whirlwind of resistance every single time they are close to sitting down to the task at hand. For many people, it will keep them from ever even getting close to starting the project and these are the people you’ll hear say, “I’ve always wanted to write a screenplay, invent something, start a business, but just didn’t have the time, the money, the drive”.
Whether there is some truth in the excuse doesn’t matter – it’s never the whole truth. It’s not that they literally couldn’t have even gotten started somewhere – even if the start was doing a bit of research, talking to someone about it, drawing up plans, taking a class to get prepared for it – even if it required them to get up at 3 am when the babies were asleep, or do it from their car if the house was too noisy or distracting – there was a way to start - but along with these outer circumstances there was just so much resistance to what seemed like such a monumental feet that they didn’t know how to break into manageable bites and pieces (which often times might be comprised of hundreds of steps over lots of time with a lot of growth (learning, developing and maturing) in between, but every time they go to think about it they compare where they are now to where they ultimately want to be and the gulf feels so wide, dark, stormy with so many unknowns, that the only way to emotionally/mentally deal with it is for a NO CAN DO MAYBE LATER mindset to emerge.
While there is a lot more that could be said about those who can’t even get close to getting started on their “wouldn’t it be nice to do this, if only I could” project, what I’d like to now focus on here in this article are those are literally minutes away to getting started (continuing, or finishing) and hitting a wall, or mountain of resistance. I call this the critical moment because this will determine if they move forward over the hump, or slide backwards down the hill, remaining still at arm’s length (which translates to now hours and days behind) from that actual start.
What is this obstacle that we hit minutes before embarking on the next step or task – again whether it's the first step or its somewhere in the middle of the project?.
Emotionally it feels like a mixture of “This is going to be hard”; with some doubts as to how well we will be able to carry this out. A feeling of overwhelm may ensue with the thought, “there is just so much to do here before I come close to being finished”. There is also a mixture of unknowns with knowns. Those who have done this before can logically know, “OK I’ve gotten past this, I’ve done a good job, it’s paid off, I am competent” but at the same time, underneath lurking is the fear, “what if I can’t do it this time - what if they won’t like it, what if I’m wasting my time, or someone else’s time, what if this isn’t as important as I think it is or want it to be? What if it’s just too hard?”
And on and on which at this point usually if you are me you are on your way to the kitchen for some peanut butter and jelly crackers, a handful of chocolate chips, a glass of ice water, a few gummy vitamins, no maybe I’ll make some ice tea instead, a couple of spoonful’s of ice cream, a half of an apple (gotta eat healthy) and oh yeah, I could use some more coffee, and maybe a beer that I won’t end up drinking once I open it. And then there is the floor to sweep, the laundry to hang up, the crumbs others left to wipe away, and I think maybe I’ll just slip out of the house, make a quick trip to Target, we do need some more toilet paper in the house you know.
While the food, drink, distractions, procrastinations might change shape or form for person to person they are still coming from a similar place to most of us. As we plop our butts back in our chairs or where ever else they need to be, plug in the computer, get it turned on, close out the 100 plus documents and apps and files already opened on the screen, the discomfort builds monumentally.
If you have the misfortune of having a yahoo email like me you get sucked into reading the news of the day about a courageous grandma who smacked a would be carjacker with her oversized purse; a dog that rescued his family during a wildfire, and the outrage of people on social media over a Chinese flight attendant fired from her job when her boyfriend proposed mid flight.
Finally, extracting yourself from the daily news blasts to your inbox, you check the remaining emails, answer a few with the greatest of ease (thankfully something here is easy!) and then with a mixture of surprise, disappointment, and relief realize that at least momentarily, there are no more emails that need to be answered, and amazingly, nothing else absolutely pressing in this very moment.
Now the tension grows as you begin the tedious search to find the latest version of the document from all the other previous versions, which is buried somewhere beneath all the folders/docs on your desktop that are now overlapping that you can’t find anything – which launches you into another hour of filing and deleting documents.
And then there you are. Your desktop is clean, you’ve located the correct document. It’s there before you, like a vast open desert, ready to swallow you up in a massive sink hole of doubt if you aren’t careful.
Getting over the peak vs. Sliding back down right when the top is in sight.
What happens in this very moment will determine if you move forward, or slide backwards up running with yet another day or hour at least still standing in between you and your goals. Ironically, as big and hard as this moment feels, It’s usually just a single tiny step getting settled on what needs to be done next - “I need to edit this paragraph, I need to look up this citation, I need to write a brand new sentence” – and doing it, a simple act that may take all of 5 minutes where now we are on the hump – at the top of the precipice, and once the words are out on the paper or out of our mouths, the first paint is on the canvas, we made it. We are there. It’s happening.
Depending on where we are in the process we may move into a flow, even forget ourselves as we happily type or paint or talk away or it may be still require a lot of focus and have a knowing feeling if it’s at the start or a particularly challenging part that there is so much to do, but at that moment, we’ve accomplished a monumental feat – one that whom ever may be observing us in our home will ever know what we just went through – to some this may be as big and unique as climbing to the top of Mount Everest, to others it was painful but a painful daily familiar.
If we are lucky we can stay focused long enough to get enough done so that there will be less starting phases of resistance we have to go through the next day and the next – I think this is why when I get started on a paper I often want to just keep going – sometimes for 8, 12, even 20 hours - while this may lead to carpel tunnel syndrome and a severely cramped neck and a moody spouse feeling sorry for themselves for having to go to bed alone – the more progress made in one sitting means less of these painful start up moments across the length of the full project.
For many, with less of an attention span, or more household distractions at the moment, they will have to go through this unpleasant phase many more times. There is no easy way to go through this phase, I’d like to say, and I’m sure readers are like “what, you just made me read this run on sentence and now you are saying it’s avoidable?!!! It’s not.
But maybe there is some solace in understanding it’s normal, it’s there, it’s like having to walk through a dark scary room where the light switch is far across the room – there is no avoiding the dark to get through to the light but once you get the light on and look back, you realize there was never anything very scary in the room to begin with. It was all in your head. But you pretty much knew that already. Knowing didn’t help. You made it, and tomorrow night, when it’s dark, and nature calls you to the bathroom down the hall, you’ll have to go through this again. And you will. And you’ll get through it, not just because you don’t want to pee in your bed, but because yes, you can do hard things.
Of course there is always the light on your cell phone you could use to brighten the journey through the dark hall way, and in this already too long analogy you can look at that as equivalent to taking the time to organize your files (or art supplies), carefully label your documents to make them more retrievable, and clean your work space from extra clutter.
The more prepared, organized and together you are the less the resistance and anxiety will be.
In fact you may be so excited to have an excuse to sit at your beautiful, clean, organized desk, or marvel at how your computer files are so tidy, your enthusiasm may occasionally override this phase completely for a day or two before things get messy again. Also, you can tell your family they are not allowed to disturb you as what you are doing here is important, and part of your overall work portfolio, even if any possible income from it may not manifest for many years to come (you don’t have to share that part).
Of course for many it will not be about money at all – this doesn’t mean this still isn’t important and valid “work” if doing it and completing it is going to feed your soul, so you have every right to tell those around you “this is my work”, especially if they are safe, well fed, and not going to really perish if you withdrawal your attention from them for a couple hours a few times a week.
Finally, it’s important to constantly forgive yourself for all the times you were so close and then at that very moment when all obstacles were, if even just momentarily, cleared away, you still slide back down tthe hill, and procrastinated. NOT forgiving yourself will freeze you up further – creating more emotional resistance as the last thing you want to do is put yourself in situations where you are going to be disappointed and angry with yourself.
Having a balanced attitude of “I want to accomplish this, I know I will accomplish it, but I’ve also got a lot of other things I want to do in life like sleep, eat, relax, drink beer, and watch TV and these are my goals too”. In owning that most of the things you do that take you away from getting started each time are also part of your overall goal portfolio will empower you as they also become a choice. When you have a choice you are no longer a hapless victim to your complicated life.
By the way - you can drink beer and watch TV at the same time for many writing/art based projects, that might help wash away some of the resistance too - These days I do much of my writing in front of the TV, sitting on the comfy reclining sofa with my feet up and people and pets running around me? However, if your project is meditation or intuitive work – that’s going to be harder. People embarking on these will therefore often hit even more resistance. This will specifically be the topic for my next blog post.
Recap of what will help
1. Get organized with your files, workspace, project. Yes this takes up time but is part of the overall goal. Just don’t get lost in this where that’s all you do as organizing can get out of balance and become an excuse too.
2. Establish a firm goal for yourself that is high, ambitious, even lofty, but realistic. What does realistic mean? It means is it even conceivably within your power to achieve in the time frame you are setting out. For example, yes it is possible to write an entire book and publish it in a month. But is it possible to write and find a major publisher (no you are not a major publisher…yet!) besides yourself, who will publish it within a month, not likely, unless you’ve just had an affair with the President or something and that’s what you are writing about (no please don’t do it, it’s not worth it!).
3. Once you decide yes, this is conceivable possible, even if challenging it is, then you need to constantly remind yourself of that goal right at the moment of most resistance and throughout the day.
4. Also, see yourself having completed it and enjoying the benefits.
5. Remind yourself you can do hard things, and it doesn’t matter if you have to go through periods of physical, mental or emotional discomfort. So what!? Remind yourself you are not a wimp. And if you are you don’t have to be a wimp in every part of your life. In this aspect, you can be strong.
6. Celebrate your smallest of achievements to date and congratulate yourself often for what you soon will be achieving via the law of attraction - even If you’ve got a few new pages, an outline, that’s just awesome!
7. Forgive yourself!
8. Never look at the resistance or hard to do aspect as a reason not to be moving towards your goal! Whoever thinks things in life should be easy all the time, or that there must be meaning if something is not easy all the time “maybe I’m just destined to not doing this” is taking the way out.
9. Be Goal oriented but not obsessed. Don’t put extra stress on the project by feeling like this is the thing that has to save you financially, that your life won’t be ok without it. Just be balanced. It’s important, but so is staying in balance.
OK, now that I’ve managed to procrastinate returning to the final write up of research paper which has about 75 citations - all of which I need to look up to make sure are correct and put into APA format, by instead having written this post, I think I’m ready to get started on that fun little project (uggg!).…just need to go make some pop corn first…..
If you find this post helpful, or even mildly inspiring, stimulating or distracting (can never have too many distractions!); or you feel like you'd love to do some kind of project, but have been feeling uncreative lately, (whether the project is a book, business, or man), you may also find my book “Freeing the Genie Within: Manifesting Abundance, Creativity, Success in Your Life” useful. Available at Amazon.