How To Accomplish Anything
Amy Kosh, Resilience Coach
2 October 2017
These days I start every morning working for a few hours on the book I am writing. At this stage it’s just about writing 2000 words each day. I sit down, set up my keyboard and pad and let the ideas flow for 2 hours. I try to roll with whatever shows up wanting to be written. Sometimes it’s a practice that I taught a group or client, sometimes it’s an idea that springs from something I now understand that I didn’t connect to yesterday or the day before. Sometimes my topic seems to spill out onto the page wanting to be written faster than I can type, (which doesn’t take much as my typing is abysmal). Then there are days like today when I find myself digging around in the corners of my own mind, looking for that elusive topic.
Ideas can be like illusive wild animals at times.
This morning I imagine it to be like the raccoon my dog treed very early yesterday morning. My topic has scampered up the nearest tree and there it clings, hiding itself on the far side of the tree trunk, all I can see at the moment is 4 small paws and the tip of a ringed tail. Yesterday, with the real raccoon, I went back to hanging my laundry outside and occasionally glancing over until I saw the raccoon peering around to check for the dog. I’d put Velo in the house by then and slowly, after numerous cautious looks, the raccoon started to descend from the tree. He’d stop every few feet, check on my position across the yard, and then keep backing down towards the shed roof. I peered from behind the line of clothes, waiting for him to jump to the shed and run off, but something in my neighbour’s yard startled him a few inches from the shed and Poof! he was back up the tree into the thinning branches. A few moments and many more glances and he moved around to get a better view. At that point I left him to go walk the dog, hoping that by the time we returned, he’d have found enough calm to descend and head home.
My topic seems to have settled comfortably into it’s own tree, hiding just behind the trunk of my ideas about this book, and all I can see is that there is a topic there, I can see the paws, but somehow, it’s been startled into hiding and the only thing I know to do is start writing anyway and hope that eventually, my topic will peer out from behind the book concept, and come out into the open.
I occurs to me that perhaps this is the topic… what to do when you are trying to be creative and you just don’t feel it happening.
I spent the first 30 years of my professional life getting paid to be creative. As a photographer and photography instructor, I was always having to come up with either a new piece of art, and new image or idea or a new way of teaching that inspired my students. Just as writers get stuck in “writer’s block”, visual (and frankly everybody) gets stuck for ideas and inspiration from time to time. The question is what do you do about it when you get stuck?
I’ve learned over the years not to waste time worrying about why I might be stuck. My first plan off attack these days is to make a cup of coffee, set out whatever materials I need, computer or camera or blank paper, and just start doing something with it. I try my best not to care what I am doing in those moments, I think about it like the warm-up. I am simply moving my fingers in ways that remind them of the doing. Like a basketball player going through the motions of a free-throw without being on a court, my body gets time to warm up to the motions. I might take a few moments and clean the lens on my camera, or doodle some shapes on the paper. If I’m writing, I just start putting down words and phrases about the first thing that pops into my mind, and I let myself go. I don’t think about what I am creating, I focus on the act of creating and that seems to start the process rolling.
I occurs to me right this minute, that this topic of “how to get unstuck when you are stuck” relates to the workshop I gave last night. I was talking about the connexions I saw between Robert Fritz and Malidoma Some’s writings, and how Fritz had come up with a lovely diagram for why we often live in a pattern of success, success, success…failure. Over and over this pattern shows up and we often just blame our selves for something we did or didn’t do. Fritz’s idea is that the structure is at fault, specifically the structure of self-esteem versus achievement. So last night I used his idea to talk about what we can create when we don’t give a rat’s-ass about who we might be or what it might look like, and we focus only on the actions that will move us forward towards whatever we want to achieve.
That’s what I’ve learned to do, what I’m doing right this moment. I am focussing on the actions I take rather than any outcome or idea about what I might be able to produce. The fact is that I know if I sit for 2 hours, no matter what I type, there will be about two-thousand words on the page when I am finished. What I now see I am doing is demonstrating what we can do when we get stuck for an idea. We can simply start doing the action.
By starting the action and not worrying about where it might take me, I am letting my body remember how it feels to do this. As my fingers remind my brain of what writing feels like, I start to see connexions in the words that I’m typing. And so all this leads me back to what we did in last night’s workshop, we focussed on the actions we can take to move us one step closer to our goal. It may not be pretty, it may feel like a waste of time at the beginning, (certainly sitting down and starting to type without any idea of what I might say felt awkward this morning), but here we are, at over a thousand words and there’s actually a thread of an idea coming together.
By “just starting” I got myself over the hump of questioning what I was going to write about, why wasn’t I feeling it this morning, and will it be any good? “Just starting” oils the gears and gets the whole creative process moving without caring what I create, the fact is that I am creating something. In last night’s workshop that was the point I stressed, that no matter what we think about ourselves, what roles we feel we have to play or fulfil, (mother, sister, artist, life coach, etc…), when we stick to the facts, we get things accomplished.
The fact is that I am writing this morning. The fact is that the process of sitting and doing is what created the achievement of words on paper. When I stick to the facts, I can start to see the next steps I need to take to make more achievement, to move myself closer to my own goal, and in this case, to give you dear reader, a way to be creative and move forward when you feel stuck.
Identify the next 3 steps you need to take action.
Here are the steps to get you started. I recommend writing these down. It is amazing how powerful words in front or our eyes can be as motivators.
- What do I want to create?
- What is my deadline?
- What five steps do I need to do to get started?
After you have completed those first five steps, write down the next five, and the next five until you are at your goal. In this case size does matter and smaller is better. Bite-sized steps will keep you moving in action towards what you want to create. If an action step feels too big, break it into smaller actions. Use whatever rewards you like to keep yourself on track, I go for the sticky buns at a local bake house and a strong cup of coffee, use what works for you, but stick to your written action steps.
Clients often tell me that about half-way through “the voice of reason” wells up in their minds and starts telling them all the reasons that they won’t possibly succeed. In my coaching practice we call this “critical voice”. When this voice shows up should oh so logical and reasonable, do whatever you have to to to tell it to go away. I often yell, “cut the crap” and it seems to slink back into it’s hidey-hole. My clients have come up with some very creative responses for them own critical voices ranging from, Turning around to tell it “piss-off”, imagining putting it in a box and shipping it to Antarctica, and one of my favourites- launching it over the ocean where it explodes in an enormous fireworks display. Whatever words or imagery you use, make it short and to the point. The fact of the matter is that in the moments of working on the action steps, we do not care about anything other than completing that action. Once that action is complete, we can look at it, pat ourselves on the back for what a great job we did with it, and then move on the the next step. Just like walking across a piazza, there are all sorts of delightful shops around the outer edge that can pull our attention away from our real purpose which is just getting from one side to the other. If what I do first is walk across, then I am getting myself where I want to be going, and doing it in the most efficient and successful way possible.
So grab what you need, make your list and start walking!