Breaking Out of that Non-Productive Funk

The other afternoon I was having coffee with a friend and began to talk about a creative problem that I was having. I could not get much done. I found myself piddling with the work instead of really being productive, and I realized that the problem was becoming a pattern. All of which made me unhappy, but I seemed unable to break out of it.

It’s a problem that most creative people have from time to time. It’s not exactly writer’s block; it’s more like a stall in the creative process, a non-productive funk. My guess is that it’s brought about by our old friend, insecurity.  We all—well, most of us—have moments when we doubt our own work. We wonder whether we are, to paraphrase Stuart Smalley, good enough or smart enough or whether people like our art.

That kind of insecurity plagues highly successful artists as well as the lesser-known. Dean Koontz has said that he is subject to “ceaseless self-doubt that sits like a demonic imp on my shoulder from the moment I begin the first sentence until long after I finish the last, informing me in a whisper – occasionally in a stentorian rant – that I am composing this story with less success than any three-legged toad might experience if it attempted to herd sheep.Nichole Kidman is beset by paralyzing fear: Every time I star in a film, I think I cannot act. I’ve tried to pull out of almost every one I’ve done because of sheer terror.

In those moments of self-doubt, it’s easy to lose the path to productivity. We begin to second-guess ourselves. We quit believing in ourselves. Then it’s easy to piddle, to procrastinate, to mark time while we appear to be working, to pretend to be moving forward when we know within ourselves that we are not.

So what are we to do? How do we find the path again? How do we break out of the whirlpool of non-productivity? My friend suggested that I needed more stimulation. It was a thought that had never occurred to me. But it was enough to set me thinking about finding a way out of my creative funk and into a more productive mode.

And so I thought about it. And, as serendipity would have it, I came across a couple of other ideas. Seth Godin, for example, said “There will always be someone telling you that you’re not hip enough, famous enough, edgy enough or whatever enough….Shun the non-believers” And I would add, “especially when the non-believer is yourself.”

But how do you do that? Perhaps my friend was right. Perhaps I did need more stimulation. So I explored ways to get more, not necessarily artistic inspiration, but stimulation in general. I introduced more variety into my routine. And that was just enough to begin to lead me to a solution. And that I think is the solution—not necessarily additional stimulation; you may be over-stimulated already. The key is to do something different, anything different, to break your pattern, so you can be free to consider your situation from a different perspective.

Once you’ve found that different perspective, the whole problem not only looks different, but feels different. In my case, I was able to look at the situation far more objectively and discover that, in addition to added stimulation, a different approach to my working procedure was necessary. It wasn’t a big change, but it made a huge difference.

What the key might be for you I have no idea. But I would be willing to bet that it will become apparent once you begin to do something different. Try it and see.



Date: Sunday, 10. April 2011 23:00
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