Monday, February 26, 2007


Tangent to book club discussion: been in a rut? Of course you have! Heck, you're probably in one now! The question is, how do you get out? What do you do if you feel stuck, unmotivated, or just like you aren't accomplishing even the bare minimum of what you need to be doing?

I've had luck with the following...

1. Moving.
2. Ending bad relationship.
3. Drawing pictures of my ideas.
4. Writing letters to people at the beginning of the day. I usually don't send them.
(3 and 4 are particularly helpful to me if the rut is writer's block).

Specific anecdotes as well as general observations welcome...


twiffer said...

avoid the large elk.

Ted Burke said...

I get into ruts staring at my computer like a dog staring at empty space on the floor where his bowl used to be, waiting for scheduled events to unfold as usual. The problem is writer's block , more or less, but sometimes it is just cabin fever, plain and simple, made worse by the happenstance that it's a perfectly sunny day outside. There are storms, war clouds and churning seas in my head, however, and the more I think about doing something to alleviate the congealing dread, the more insurmountable the situations seem.
It does not lend itself to writing, of making interesting judgements on poems, novels, books or jazz albums; the little joys that make life tolerable are now nothing I want to consider. Clearly, I think too much and need to get out more.

TenaciousK said...

The only times when I really get stuck are when the things I'm doing to take care of myself become my biggest problems.

I'm thinking I'm not alone, given the rampant problems with addiction to [insert any addictive substance, behavior, compulsion etc. you can imagine here].

It's a more general take on Vonnegut's observation that the biggest problem in the life of any alcoholic is alcohol.

Dawn Coyote said...

Sometimes the only way I'll get something done is when it becomes the thing I'm doing to procrastinate from the higher priority thing that I ought to be doing. If I could only structure this like a series of dominos, so that each task would eventually get completed...

august said...

Twif -- er, what?

Ted -- I feel a kind of thickness and frustration, and I know I want nothing to do with it. So I seek joy in books. The Rabbi's Cat, for example, is brilliant.

TK See above. Also, I'm walking around on the streets of New York, and watching a lot of movies. I'm thinking Yoga's the next step.

Dawn -- yeah, I think the answer is more sleep. But I definitely identify.

topazz said...

I don't have the luxury of breaking away and thinking about whether I'm happy or not. I'm not allowed to because I have to take care of these damn kids. So they don't grow up with all kinds of neurotic notions.

So quit your bellyaching, ya'll.

august said...

topazz -- not sure if you are joking or not. But I'd point out

1. That if your career relied on writing, failure to write would be a serious problem.

2. You have time for, for example, this, so it's not so much a question of time. You don't worry about it. Good for you. Not helpful.

topazz said...


I'm just being a bitch is all.

Sorry for the flip comment. I didn't know your livelihood was writing.

I guess I was just saying that I have all kinds of ruts going on - but I really do feel I don't have the luxury of examining them. At least not right now.

Which is in itself, another rut, dammit.

I'm going to go up there and delete that other comment right now. Before I dig myself into a deeper rut here.

topazz said...

On second thought, I'm going to leave it rut where it is.

Keifus said...

Honestly dude, tough it out and wait for it to turn around. Usually it does.

Do I make my living writing? Sort of. I write a lot of proposals. If ideas are short, and sometimes they are, then I try to find something to recycle. If creative writing fails, and sometimes it does, I go for the easy fruit: book reviews usually. Can always crank one of those out.

Sometimes it does help to concentrate on the good stuff in life, too. And topazz isn't too far off: kids sap away the tendency to self-absorb. (And I don't know about her, but my free time is badly structured.)


august said...

K and T, I didn't mean to break bad on Topazz. I realize that the problem I describe is not hugely serious, that it will pass. I take "rut" to mean a minor malaise, and I'm well aware that most of the world would kill to have my problems. I didn't mean to be focusing on my problems, just tricks for solutions. I was in a bookstore, actually contemplating buying a self-help book on getting organized. I thought I'd try here first.

Keif, you've mentioned that you had a rough patch a few years ago. Did you just wait it out?

TenaciousK said...

You know, it's interesting - reading your top-post, it's not at all clear (to me) that you are referring to yourself being in a rut ("I've had luck with the following"). So, I guess I don't really know what kind of rut you're in.

Having had a little experience with this sort of thing before...

The exercise and yoga are great ideas, actually. Break up your daily routine - it's not working. It's critical you have things to look forward to, even if they're little things, every day.

I will note that momentum taken in one area often takes away from other areas. You might want to do a little inventory to figure out where your creative energies are directed these days, and work on redirecting, or at least banking, that flow. Self-distraction is particularly deadly. Like, windows solitaire and minesweeper took on a whole new level of meaning and enjoyment when I was using them to avoid my dissertation.

Otherwise, I'll think about it awhile. In the mean time, good luck.

PS. re. Twif's comment: Rutting season. I guess he's had some unfortunate experience in this area that involved large elk, so it's probably good advice.

twiffer said...

august: sorry. bad joke. still sound advice though.

as for your sort of rut, i find a walk helps. change, even a small one, can get you out.

twiffer said...

august: wait a're asking us how to get organized? the group of people who slack off by posting on various message boards and blogs?

did you hit your head or something?

Keifus said...

More or less.

Proactive steps: Tried to assess what I actually cared about. Writing letters about what I was actually pissed about made me angrier. Writing in the abstract about it helped. Some overdue confrontation was necessary. Exercise made me angrier. Working within the system, focusing on teh positive, yada yada hasn't been fruitless.

You got that supply of beer handy or what?


rundeep said...

The only thing that works for me is taking on a new project. There's that old saying, "if you want something done, ask a busy person." The only way to get something done is to have to fit it in to a really tight schedule. Oh, and try tantric sex.

twiffer said...

but avoid tantric sex with large elk.

actually, that goes without saying.

Keifus said...

at least during rutting season. They're hard to get calm, you know.

K (or, uh, so I heard)