Last Saturday morning, I was sitting on the couch totally content. My baby was snuggling on my chest. My two-year old sang along to the Beatles’ record he picked off the shelf. My spouse refilled my coffee cup. In that lovely moment, I had a breakthrough on an essay. I had been stuck for days and then suddenly, without warning, two paragraphs appeared in my mind and rearranged themselves. A line break emerged, and I silently wrote a transition sentence in my head. With those minor shifts, room was created and new ideas started flooding in. I took a post-it note and jotted down phrases. The missing pieces fell into place. I would fine-tune it later, but there, on the couch, the essay was essentially finished. I didn’t set out to get unstuck when I sat down that morning. I wasn’t planning on writing at all that day. It just happened.
That unexpected moment of breakthrough, when my mind was seemingly far away from the task, is why I am fiercely opposed to procrastinating and committed to doing work early. Time is one the most important components of my creative process. There must be a balance of work and rest, which both take time.
A few days before the couch moment, while my kids were napping, a wave of fatigue poured over me. I could have turned on the television or napped, but instead I opened the essay on my laptop. The deadline wasn’t pressing. I could have put it off, but I hunkered down, worked and made good progress. Then I got stuck. I kept the document open and tinkered over the next few days, but ultimately stayed stuck. When the essay felt like it was hanging over my head like dead weight, I closed the document to get some psychic space from it. It was Friday night. I poured a glass of wine, watched a little television, and slept.
Then Saturday morning I got unstuck, but only because I had enough time to dwell in the stuck-ness. I wish I could say that when I’m stuck I have total faith in getting unstuck, that over the years I’ve built up trust with time as a necessary component. But no, every time I get stuck it’s a little unnerving. I get dramatic and think I will never write again. Then every time I get unstuck it’s a little a little miraculous.