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Whining, Blue Smoke & the Mechanics of Getting Unstuck

I've been working on a bunch of (non-43 Folders-related) stuff lately, but I started feeling that hankering to come back and write something new here. To get the engine started, I went through some old posts and turned up a few (oddly self-inspiring) ideas that I want to re-share. The topic? "Getting unstuck."

  • Hack your way out of writer's block - "Literally. Put five completley random words on a piece of paper. Write five more words. Try a sentence. Could be about anything. A block ends when you start making words on a page."
  • Solve problems by writing a note to yourself - "Seriously, open up your email program, type in your own email address, then choose a brilliant subject line that perfectly encapsulates your particular problem."
  • Do a fast "mind-sweep" - "And as long as you let that stuff accumulate as chunky deposits on the edges of your perception, it’s very unlikely it’ll get done since — well — they won’t get done until they’re been captured and properly started, right?"
  • Cringe-Busting your TODO list - "Per cringe item, think honestly about why you’re freaked out about it. Seriously. What’s the hang-up? (Fear of failure? Dreading bad news? Angry you’re already way overdue?)"
  • Patching your personal suck - "Every patch that fails teaches you a little something that might come in handy some day. Mistakes, as they say, can be a buddhist gift."

I guess all I'd add -- since it's on my mind today -- is that I'm learning how much it pays to listen whenever you hear yourself mentally whining.

First off, even when it's yourself, nobody likes a whiner. So it's worthwhile to be mindful about the extent to which your internal monologue is becoming personally insufferable. As with B.O. and a lack of flossing, the chances are good that others have already noticed things about you before you have, so -- you know -- congratulations on making it to the party.

But, second, and perhaps more importantly, that whining should be telling you something. Whining is the white blue smoke in your tailpipe that lets you know you're burning mental oil. It means you're unconsciously devoting cycles to something that you can't, won't, or shouldn't be spending time thinking about. Otherwise, why would it be bothering you, right? You'd be either extricated or done with it.

Once you pinpoint where that whine's coming from, that's the perfect opportunity to decide what the hell the hang-up is. Because if it's worth whining and fussing about, it's worth deciding what obstacle (obstruction?) in either the Real World or your own mind is keeping something from happening.

And once that obstacle is identified and out there, ample methods exist for helping you execute in a way that's sane and sensible. But you can't complete a task you don't understand, so grant yourself the personal luxury of unpacking the problem behind the problem.

Put automotively? Obsessively adding a new quart of oil every day not only doesn't fix your smoke problem: it feeds it. Instead, just use the smoke as a warning that it's nigh time to trace the cracks in your engine.

As for me? Yeah. Now I'm feeling unstuck and a little less whiny. So, thanks. Onward.

Edit 2008-04-12 11:07:28 - Reader wemerson was kind enough to correct me on my metaphor in this post. Turns out that my use of "white smoke" was inaccurate; the smoke would be blue. Many thanks -- and I made the correction. Learn more about smoke...

Merlin's picture

Hm. That’s

Hm. That's coincidental/contextual. But I do support brake pads and their important work.

"Buy Brake Pads." --Merlin





An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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