We’ve all been there. We are working on something, and we’re not sure where to go next. We get overwhelmed and start to judge ourselves, “This is too hard,” “I have no talent.” At it’s worst, this can produce so much tension that we avoid doing the things we need to do to make forward progress, as they become associated with overwhelm and negative beliefs. This issue can become intensified by cultural stereotypes of the ‘tortured artist’ or ‘burning out entrepreneur’ who is always bashing their head against the wall in service of their mission.
I finally realized years ago that I’m often better off “pausing and priming.” First, I pause whatever it is that I’m working on and stop myself before I get to the point of being overwhelmed. I take a breath, slow down, and calm myself.
Secondly, I “prime” my subconscious by defining very specifically what I am trying to accomplish next and the exact point where I am stuck. For instance, “I need a rhyme for this word that accomplishes such and such.” or “I need to figure out how to phrase something in this email to promote myself better.” Again l find it vital to be as specific as possible. This mindset creates the intention in my subconscious to figure out the next step, as opposed to pausing with nothing but a bad feeling that would make restarting harder. Eventually (and sometimes this will be months later) the answer will either suddenly pop into my head at random times or when I start to work on it again.
1) attempt to start again now that I have clearly defined the sense of what I need to accomplish next or, 2) move on to something else where the specific path forward is more clear or, only if all else fails, 3) take a break from what I’m doing to clear my head and let my subconscious start to work on it.
GETTING MORE DONE
I’m not being lazy as I usually keep working. I’m adding time and energy to my work because my subconscious is working during my “down time.” It’s even working on one thing when I’m working on something else! Sometime I’ll be writing one song and a line for another song I’m working on pops into my head.
Of course, sometimes you have a deadline you can’t get around, and it can often be helpful to give yourself a period to increase your focus. But life can be so much happier if you can balance that with a desire to reduce unnecessary stress.
My music students usually enjoy the idea of respecting that forward movement doesn’t always happen on a timetable. Music, like most professions, requires the development of many skills, and working on several during the same time frame can create a synergy where all the skills develop faster.
So give yourself a break by pausing and priming. You’ll get more done and be much happier.