I feel like there are two kinds of people: those who get stuck on projects and those who lie about not getting stuck.
We all get stuck.
Getting UNstuck is about embracing boredom and using our raw vulnerabilities as fuel (Insomnia? Keep a pen and notebook by your bed.). It’s about resorting back to an uninhibited, beginner’s mind and heart. It’s about letting go and allowing ourselves to wander. It’s about remembering why we started making art in the first place (’cause it’s, like, super fun, and it makes us feel alive and appreciative of the little things that are, in fact, not so little).
We get unstuck when we recognize what causes us to get stuck (eg. realizing we’re becoming super product-oriented and need to loosen our grip). We get unstuck when we turn our side projects into main projects (because that’s what interests us then and there). We get unstuck when we catch ourselves walking on egg shells and remember we’re our most authentic and fiery when we’re “not creating from a place of Don’t Fuck It Up but from a place of Fuck It Up” (Ben Haggerty, 2016). We get unstuck when our ME-centric thoughts turn to WE-centric thoughts, when we listen to others, when we express what’s innately our own through our own lens with the hope of sharing a common, human experience; we listen to what’s loudest inside of us and, in turn, express something that’s universal. That’s the hope.
We get unstuck when we get out of our own way.
I also get unstuck by just working my ass off. And doing these:
1. WATCH COMEDY. Nothing makes me more whimsical than watching comedy (or quoting comedy or just being a hooligan with friends). I love imitating people. I love watching comedians imitate people. You can’t NOT be present when you’re trying to capture someone else’s mannerisms and idiosyncracies. You can’t NOT be present when you’re reenacting something your grandma said (eg. how Fargo is her favorite movie and how Argo isn’t really a movie ’cause, you know, it’s missing a letter. Duh!). You’re immersed. You jump-start an attitude of being completely loose yet completely engaged.
Comedy requires a playful receptiveness, a willingness to improvise and be wrong and look stupid–not with the intent of gaining anything or appearing a certain way but purely “for the mind to tickle itself,” according to Ricky Gervais in his brief but poignant appearance on The (American) Office. We need comedy. We laugh at what we’re told to suppress. I’ll re-watch Seasons 1-3 of The Office and the early years of The Lonely Island and Kyle Mooney. I’ll dust up on Arrested Development, Wet Hot American Summer, Leslie Nielsen, Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Ellen, Dave Chapelle, and Kristen Wiig. They make me laugh and feel looser. Win-win!
There’s a direct relationship between how tight your sphincter is and how inhibited your art is.
2. GO FOR A WALK/RUN—the longer the better, the more meandering the better. I walk really slowly in general and even slower when I’m stuck. I’ll leave my phone at home and just go out and ramble. I like stopping to talk with strangers. I like stopping just to stop. (I also get lost a lot which can be a problem).
4. READ. “Problems of output are usually problems of input. I often get blocked when I lose sight of why I began my work in the first place: because I was inspired by others and wanted to join in the fun.”—Austin Kleon
5. READ THE OBITUARIES. I try to read obits every day. It creates a sense of urgency to create what I actually want to create. It’s kind of dark but also kind of a bull-shit detector. https://www.instagram.com/p/_x_ncLA13M/?taken-by=austinkleon
6. PHONE A FRIEND. Or a mom. Or a random customer service hotline and strike up a goofy conversation.
7. UNPLUG. I’ll turn off the wi-fi and hide my phone for long stretches. Then I usually forget where I hid my phone in the first place, and my mom will worry I’m face down in a ditch in Hartford or something.
8. HANG OUT WITH KIDS. Or watch videos of yourself as a little fella and
try to tap into that recklessness.
9. DO SOMETHING BORING. I love doing the dishes. I love doing laundry. I love taking out the trash. (I mean, I really don’t, but they produce a lot of my best ideas).
“So you see the imagination needs moodling–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering.”–Brenda Ueland
“I’m not good at telling the jokes, but I’m good at laughing at the jokes.”
“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.”–Pablo Picasso