Getting Unstuck

Picture taken at the end of The Muse 2018. Cake and postcard idea were formulated by The Muse creators.

Last week I had a trip to New York City to plan for. I was going to the ASJA Journalism Conference, sponsored by Northern Essex Community College, where I teach English 101 classes. For the past five weeks—since April 20th—I’ve been pitching ideas to five magazines a week. That means now, at the five-week mark, I’ve pitched around 25 ideas. But last week, I had to plan meals and clothes and dinner, and I knew I’d be driving there and back, so I also had to grab some audio books from the library.

I only sent out three pitches last week, and all weekend I felt like a failure.

On Monday I decided to focus on getting out seven pitches so I can stick with my five a week and stop feeling guilty. I haven’t had much time between teaching and working on the articles I write for a newsletter that pays gloriously, but where I could find time I focused my attention on two of the ideas I’d wanted to send out last Friday. Finally, last night, I realized that I was stuck. I didn’t think that the ideas I had would match the magazines I’d planned to send them to, and one required a lot of research to get down on paper.

So I told myself, “You’re stuck, so it’s time to go in another direction and get unstuck.” And I did. I blocked an hour of my time and sat down to work on my ideas and the list of places I haven’t sent them to. I got out another pitch to The Atlantic, and sent one to The Nation, all in the span of a half hour. I also drafted two new pitches with a list of magazines to send each.

When you get stuck, don’t keep pushing forward. It’s like when you’re out mudding, or you get stuck in the snow: Don’t spin your tires. Find another way. Back up. Turn the wheel left and right. Dump salt or stack branches under your tires. You need to give yourself some leverage and you’ll get right back on the road.

Have there ever been times that you get stuck in your art? What is it that holds you back? How do you get past it?

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