5 ways to jump out of a slump

Last week, I talked about acceptance and hoping the Universe will send a big Yes.

Today, sending out job applications and contest submissions, I thought of the line from Cool Hand Luke: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Am I experiencing a failure to communicate? Or am I at the bottom of the Universe’s slush pile?

This time of year, when the days are short and cold and the sky’s slush-gray, it’s easy to feel buried. Here are five ideas for getting back into action.

1. Listen to this (it’s short):

Or whatever makes you feel silly and maybe a little rebellious. I’ve loved this song since I heard it on Sesame Street when my kids were little, and I thought of it again today. (I was so excited to find it on YouTube so I could share it with you.) “No” is a word you start to hear a lot as a toddler–but in this song, they’re explaining it, and they even say it’s important, but there’s a subversive defiance in the way they list all the fun things. No is a word you need to know, but sometimes it’s no fun and maybe it makes no sense.

2. Beware the peril of “should”

We all have things to do–call them chores or tasks or deliverables. But we also want to do the things that make us happy and motivate us. I’ve heard people say they need to clean the whole house before they can write. I am not that person (and my house is not that clean), but I do find it hard to start writing when I have something hanging over my head. So I take care of all the “shoulds” suspended there, and then the day’s over. Or the week’s over. And I’m grouchy.

“Shoulds” need to stay in balance. In a recent class, Dorianne Laux proposed that you just need to write 20 minutes a day, and anyone can find 20 minutes. The trick is to banish the other stuff to the corner for those 20 minutes. That’s easier for me to do if I’m on the bus (and have a seat). No bus? It becomes a challenge.

How do you balance relative importance (and time)?

3. Focus on the project

I had a dance teacher who would walk around the room, correcting a dancer’s alignment and explaining what he wanted, ending with “That’s the project.” Focusing on what we need to learn, how we need to get better, distracts us from thinking that we can’t. Whether it’s reading a book, writing from new prompts, or getting started by writing lists or outlines, this kind of practice requires an attention that shuts out frustration.

4. Love the process

When I first read this on Penelope Trunk’s blog, I thought, “The last thing we need is more process.” But she isn’t talking about more spreadsheets. Loving the process is about immersion and learning–enjoying what you’re doing more than the result you get. That result might not be what you wanted, but that brings us to the last point:

5. Fail better

We always come back to Beckett. These isn’t the only poem I’m going to write or the only job I’m going to apply for. Even if I really want the poem to be fantastic. Even if I really want this job.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” –Samuel Beckett

See you on the up side.

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