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Stuck? Try This

A man with tape stuck all over his face.

A few weeks ago, while working on my novel, I got stuck.

I’d come up with a story-within-my-story to explain my shapeshifters’ origins. It was interesting and clever, but it explained nothing.  Also, the chronology was all messed up.

My struggles left me wondering if I was a fraud. Aren’t I supposed to be an expert on creative blocks? How could I be having one?

Why it’s OK to be stuck

Because Creative Unblocking isn’t about never running into obstacles; it’s about knowing how to get around them. You don’t master it once and forever, either. It’s a practise, like yoga. That’s why I sometimes find it useful to re-read my own book.

A photo of my hand writing again once I was able to get unstuck

Axl, my in-laws’ Boston terrier, makes a good work buddy.

We all have wise and unwise parts of ourselves. My wisest self wrote Creative Unblocking. My unwise self authors my doubts.

In her novel Medicine Song, my sister Celeste Lovick calls her heroine’s wisest self her “Inner Peace Chief”.

An easy trick

One way I’ve found to access mine is to write down a question before I go to bed and trust I’ll wake up with an answer. So, recognising an all-too-familiar impulse to chuck my novel in the trash (again), I asked my subconscious how to fix it.

That night, I had a dream.

You know how some dreams are more vivid than others, and feel heavy with meaning? This was one of those.

In it, I decided to kill time in a bookstore while waiting for my partner Kevin in a mall. I noticed a title I’d been meaning to read for awhile. It doesn’t exist in real life, but in the dream, I recognised it.

I picked it up. It was so hefty it was hard to hold, but I started reading it anyhow. The story transported me. The plot details are fuzzy now, but I remember two things:

  1. It involved time travel.
  2. The main character had an arrow stuck in his leg, and was trying to convince another character to shoot it out with yet another arrow. Strange.

Although the specifics differ, in an important way, it resembles another dream I had several years ago. In that one, I attended an art show full of stunning paintings. These are so gorgeous and original, I thought. I wish my ideas were that good.

A crystal catching sunlight as a metaphor for what happens when you're no longer creatively stuck.

Somewhere inside each of us there’s a sort of prism capable of translating our experiences into something clearer and more beautiful.

When I woke up, I realised the ideas had been mine, because the dream had been mine. I drew a similar conclusion from the arrow dream: if I can dream a story that entertains me, I can write one.

I had another realisation, too: time doesn’t bind Gods. And just like that, I wasn’t stuck anymore.

So what can you take from this?

A reminder: you’re smarter than you know.

Have a difficult question? Write it down and go to bed.

You might be amazed what you wake up with.

And now, Reader, I’d love to hear from you: has something like this ever happened to you? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Featured image: Creative Commons photo by Ryan McGuire, Gratisography.

Want to finally create what’s calling you to make it? Download a free preview of Creative Unblocking: Bypass Self-Doubt, Tap Your Genius, and Complete Your Best Work.  It’s an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to the creative process.


  1. Claire says

    Love this. Agree, we are smarter than we know. All we have to do is tune in.

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