Geetanjali Mukherjee

Thursday, September 24, 2015

When You Feel Stuck

We all have those days - you know the ones I mean. When you just tell yourself - what's the point. When you feel that everything you're doing is pointless, nothing is working. You want to give up. You want to stop. You feel that you have nothing creative left to give.

I am in the throes of marketing my latest book and it is mostly a sucky experience. Sure there are the moments when someone says they love your book, or you read something and remember why you wrote it in the first place, but most of the time it is simply awful. You reach out to people, feeling like you're peddling something unsavory, and question yourself every time you get rejected. Or shut down. Or ignored. Or your emails go unanswered. I know people are busy. I know that no one means it personally. I know many things intellectually, but it feels personal. It feels hurtful.

Even if you are lucky enough not to know personally what marketing a book is like, you probably have those kinds of days too. When you're looking for a job, and feel like you're sending your CV into the ether, to be sucked up by a black hole that came swimming by just at the right moment. You're writing blog posts, or making music, or painting, and you have all this material that no one is reading or listening to or looking at. Or even if they are, they don't respond. You create, and it doesn't resonate. You are desperate for feedback and you hit a stone wall of silence. The world doesn't care - about you or your music or your art or your writing.

Sure we are told that we need to touch a chord in someone. Or that we need to get really really good before we can expect a lot of traction. Or that it doesn't matter what others think, it only matters that we keep doing the work. Yeah sure, we have heard all that. But it doesn't matter how many times we hear that we need to focus on the process and not the product, that we need to keep creating and eventually we will get better, that fame and fortune are fickle mistresses. We know this, and we still want that flicker of appreciation, that soup├žon of encouragement. We need to know that our work matters.

Unfortunately, sometimes we don't always get that. Sometimes we need to keep doing what we are doing, even when the world is oblivious. Sure, we can change strategy, and do something different, and learn a new skill, but at the end of the day, we still need to do something, make something, put something out there.

What do you do when you don't have the heart to take another step? When you want to curl into a ball and go to sleep for a hundred years?

You take one small tiny action.

Can't write a blog post? Write a headline. Can't paint anything? Draw a flower (or a tree or a dog or a squiggle). Can't send another cover letter? Write a recommendation for someone you worked with. Do anything, even the tiniest action. If nothing else, do the laundry. Sweep the floors. Dust out the cobwebs. Even when all you want to do is grab a pint of Rocky Road and zone out to Netflix, postpone your TV viewing for 30 minutes and take one small action, whatever it is.

Chances are once you are done, you will feel just a little, smidge better. You will want to take one more action. Maybe you did the laundry, and now you feel able to start to fold one pile. Maybe you posted a comment on someone's post and it gave you the idea for one of your own, and you can just about gather up the energy to create an outline. Maybe your little doodle of a flower turned into a sketch of an exotic orchid.

We can get easily discouraged. Life can be hard and unfeeling. We may feel isolated, working hard at crafting a life, a creative life, whatever that means for each of us, and we look up to see there is no one to notice, or commiserate, or acknowledge. On those days when the futility of our dreams threaten to overwhelm us, instead of thinking big, we can think small. The tiny action we are contemplating can slip through the dire scenarios we start to imagine. Sure, doodling or drafting won't make much difference to our work, but it can't hurt. We tell ourselves, I'm just going to take this one little action, and then go back to contemplating how bad everything is. The only thing is - things don't seem so bad after.
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