The first thing I do when I begin writing in the morning is edit the post I’m going to publish that day. After that’s done, I try to draft at least two more. Why two? Well, because producing at a faster rate than I can publish puts me in a strong position. There’s a few reasons for that.
The first is that producing more than I publish allows me to be more discerning about what and what not to put out there. Because I have a lot of options and backups I can scrap anything that I don’t think is good enough.
The second reason is that it takes the pressure off. As I sit there, struggling, wondering WTF to write that day, I can relax, knowing that it’s okay if I come up empty. It gives me room to fail.
The third reason producing more than I publish is helpful is that it allows me to navigate crises. If I know I can go months without producing something new and still maintain a steady output, it doesn’t matter what life throws my way. Because I know that I can recover from pretty much anything in a few months.
Essentially, creating a big buffer of material gives me optionality and redundancy. It’s like having five figures sitting in the bank.
But occasionally—more often than I would like—I feel blocked when I try to draft in the morning. I feel like I have nothing to say. And as soon as that feeling begins to emerge, the anxiety sets in. And anxiety typically leads to mild panic. Which makes me want to throw up my hands and quit for the day.
Sure, I have things I can do to prevent this feeling or cycle repeating itself. But it’s hard to remember them when I’m in a hole. So yesterday I created a little document that I intend to use every time I feel blocked, every time I feel empty, get anxious and want to quit.
Here’s how it works: I pull up my commons, type, “help I’m stuck” in the search box and do what it says.
Here’s what the document actually says, in full.
“Stuck? Feel like quitting for the day? Keep reading...
The first step... DON'T PANIC.
You've been here many times before, and in fact, this anxiety/restlessness/panic/FML feeling is merely a gateway on the road to creativity, immersion and flow. It's an integral part of the process.
The second step... MAKE A DEAL WITH YOURSELF
Right now, you want to quit. You want to look at emails, check social media, read an inspirational article that makes you feel like shit, do anything but sit here and wallow in self-pity and anguish. That's understandable. But you yourself know that such feelings are ephemeral. That the only thing all these episodes have in common is their transience. So how about you hold on for five, ten more minutes? Just wait a teeny tiny bit longer.
The third step... WHILST WAITING
Don't just sit there, doing nothing for the extra minutes you've grudgingly agreed to. Fill them with one of the following easy and simple and low-level activities.
A) Pull up the commons and start poking around. Pick specific authors or categories and see what comes up.
B) Choose a book from your bookshelves and flick through it. Look at the passages you've highlighted. Or just start reading a random chapter or page.
C) Doodle in your notebook. Or just start writing, morning pages style. If you don't want to use actual words, try gibberish: sholgyd whosahsahsah monwryt ikknoghak...
D) Pick up one of your toys (magnets, Tangle, spinner etc), sit in your meditation spot and fiddle as energetically as you possibly can for as long as needed.
E) Look out the window. Gaze at the clouds.
F) Ask a question. Explore the answers.
G) Stand up, close your eyes. Now breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out...
The fourth step... REPEAT
If you're still here and reading, then the first three steps obviously didn't work. But they always work eventually. So start again at the top.”
You know how sports stars have their signature moves? Well, when I get blocked, this is going to be my go-to manoeuvre. I’ll stare at a blank page, curse, type “help I’m stuck”, and go through the above steps until I hit upon something.