Stuck? The Overlooked Strategy for Boosting Productivity by Rochelle Melander
August 23, 2016
Note From Rochelle
Greetings! As we approach a new school year, I’m curious about you. What are you struggling with? How can I help? What sort of blog topics, book or program would be most helpful to you right now? If you’re up for it, answer my questions via email. (Please put TOPICS in the subject line.)
And no matter how tired you’re feeling, today’s tip will help you boost your productivity.
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
Stuck? The Overlooked Strategy for Boosting Productivity
by Rochelle Melander
During the times we think we’re being “unproductive,” the seeds of new worlds are germinating within us, and they need peace to grow. —Martha Beck
Early in my career, in the middle of an editing project, I got stuck. The book didn’t work, and I had no idea how to fix it. My boss, the supervising editor, suggested I take some time off.
“Seriously?” I asked.
“Yes. You won’t solve the problem by staring at it. Get away. It will look better tomorrow. I promise.”
I was suspicious. My work style has always been most like bulldozer—plow forward until the work is done. Tired, stuck, hungry—tough. Have a cookie, and get back to work. But because I respected my editor, I took her advice. The next day, I woke up inspired to get back to work. When I looked at the book, I saw the solution within minutes. Maybe she wasn’t so crazy after all.
Since then, I’ve written over a dozen books and edited many more. I still work more like a bulldozer than a gardener. But I’ve also learned to recognize when I need a break, and I almost always take one. (Okay, sometimes I sit at the computer staring off into space for several days until I realize—duh, I need to rest!).
Science Recommends Rest
It helps to know that scientists recommend taking time off. Remember:
+Even when we’re super productive, we can maintain that pace for about 3 hours before mental fatigue sets in.
+As we make decisions throughout the day, we use up our store of self-control. (That’s why it’s easier to resist a donut at breakfast than dessert at dinner.)
+Rest between physical workouts helps our muscles rebuild. It also allows our brain time to integrate information and receive new ideas.
How to Get Inspired and Renew Your Creative Spirit
As I’ve worked with clients and on my own writing, I’ve discovered several ways to rest and renew my mind and spirit when I’m feeling stuck or empty. Here are five ways you can feed your creative spirit when you run out of energy:
Read outside your niche
Madeleine L’Engle, the Newbery award-winning author of A Wrinkle in Time and dozens of other books, read particle physics and theology to inspire and sometimes inform her novels. When I need to get inspired, I visit my local library and scan the new bookshelves. In a small space, I can find books on diverse topics like economic theory, beading, and auto repair.
Go back to school
Many writers get inspired by volunteering to teach writing to young people at schools and after school programs. For the past ten years, I’ve been teaching at schools, libraries, and churches through my Dream Keepers Writing Program. The strange but awesome result of this strategy? I think I learn more than the students do. I always leave sessions surprised and inspired by the young people.
Pro Tip: Learning can be inspiring, too! Inexpensive classes are available at nature centers, festivals, craft stores, and rec departments.
Get to know an artist
I’m often in awe of my artist friends when they tell me about the items they’ve repurposed for their art. One friend visited her town dump to get metal scrap for a work she was completing. When I cannot find a living artist to learn from, I read about the lives of artists either online or in books.
The Artist is In (Ted Talks)
Musicians have the rare opportunity to make their craft in front of people. Watching a music group play together and talk about how they created a piece of music often inspires me to go home and write. And if you can’t get to a concert, find one online.
Complete Concerts (YouTube)
Ernest Hemingway broke up his writing days by fishing and hunting. Psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan propose that we can restore our ability to focus by walking in nature. When I get stuck, I often leave my desk and drive to a different neighborhood park to walk so that I can explore a new territory.
Bonus tip: Rest. Find a pool or a porch, get yourself a cool drink—and relax. Stare at the flowers or stars, take a nap or just daydream. (Good news! When we daydream, our brains work to find new solutions to our problems.)
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at https://www.writenowcoach.com.
Not only are these great tips, you write them with such flair! Turning off social media is difficult for me, not just because it’s addictive (hey, I’m in recovery…). I think it’s also to do with how difficult it is for an indie writer to make connections and promote his or her work. In today’s world, that’s on social media. However, in order for social media to work you need to BE SOCIAL. I suppose it’s a middle road thing.
I have found that reading poetry sometimes jump starts my creativity. There’s something about the way verse is put together that gives me a new way to look at a subject I’m writing. Last, your suggestion to read outside the genre you normally do is a big plus. Reading is such a pleasure, though, I feel like I’m not “doing work” when it really is!
Thanks, Rochelle! Great content, as always. – D.D. Maurer
Thanks, Daniel. I find poetry really helpful, too. Any favorites?
Too many to cite here. But, start with this one . . . (Have you read it? Totally amazing)
I haven’t. It’s wonderful. Thank you!