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The ABCs of Getting Unstuck


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26 strategies to help you break away from writer's block, imposter syndrome, creative burnout, or whatever you're calling your temporary state of being stuck. When you need to get stuff done, here's a whole alphabet of ways to get unstuck.

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The ABCs of Getting Unstuck

  1. 1. The ABCs of Getting Unstuck 26 ways to break away from the sucky state of stuck-ness ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode
  2. 2. YOU ARE STUCK. AND BEING STUCK SUCKS. Being stuck sets off a cacophony of mental commentary. The harder you strain to hear faint whispers of something smart, witty, coherent, the more your brain fills with negativity. The sucky state of stuck-ness raises the volume on your inner critic: OMG! You’re such a loser! Give it up! You have something to say. Well, you’re supposed to have something to say. “They” expect you to have something to say. You sit down to write. Nothing comes. A few words finally trickle out. They’re awful! &#%!@?! ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode
  3. 3. YOU ARE NOT A LOSER Whatever you call this unfortunate state of affairs—imposter syndrome, writer’s block, creative burnout, a slump, or Tuesday—you can’t stay stuck. You have to get stuff done. Good news: you DO have what it takes to get unstuck. Especially if you turn to the 26 strategies you'll find here. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode
  4. 4. ASK A QUESTION Better yet, ask only questions. Stop trying to write declarative sentences and let yourself raise one question after another. What could you ask your audience? What would they ask you? Questions only. Go! A ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode
  5. 5. BREAK A RULE Write an entire page with no punctuation. Write only sentence fragments. Work profanity into every sentence. (This is a first draft; you will repair the damage when you edit.) B ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode
  6. 6. CHANGE YOUR SCENERY Take your notebook or laptop and go outside, upstairs, downstairs, or across the room. If you have to stay put, face a different direction. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode C
  7. 7. DESCRIBE THE WORK Instead of struggling to write the thing, write about the thing. “I need to write a proposal. It needs to be persuasive but not pushy, detailed but not long, and technically accurate but not boring. My target audience is worried about X, and I’m nervous that they’ll be put off by Y. Here’s how I can deal with that ...” ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode D
  8. 8. EAT CHOCOLATE ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode E Duh.
  9. 9. FILL A PAGE WITH NONSENSE Start writing and don’t stop until you’ve filled the entire page. You don’t have to write the thing, or even about the thing (see D). Just write whatever comes. The mere act of producing words may be all it takes to get you on track. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode F
  10. 10. GET AWAY FROM IT, BRIEFLY All my clients get this advice: “Set a timer for 3 minutes and write.” Short timers work (see P) not just for writing, but for not writing, too. Put 10 minutes on the clock and let yourself focus elsewhere: a YouTube video, a yoga sequence, a squirrel in a tree. When the timer rings, get back to work. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode G
  11. 11. HUM Play whatever music gets you in the zone. I say: “Okay Google, play instrumental focus music.” My husband queues up metal guitarists on Spotify. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode H
  12. 12. ILLUSTRATE YOUR MESSAGE Ditch words altogether and draw. Make a comic strip, a set of icons, or a rebus story. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode I
  13. 13. JOT IDEAS ON A THROW-AWAY SURFACE Sticky notes, a white board, paper from the recycle bin ... anything that doesn’t feel precious or permanent. When you write on an imperfect medium, you don’t have to choose perfect words. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode J
  14. 14. KNOCK OUT THE EASY PARTS Here’s one of my favorite Stephen Wright jokes: “I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” If page numbers get you past blank-page paralysis, so be it. Other “easy” parts to try: section headings, call to action, next steps. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode K
  15. 15. LINK TO THE UNEXPECTED Is yours a decidedly grown-up topic? Imagine it as a children’s book. Are you selling intangible business services? Try packaging them to appeal to consumers scanning a retail shelf. Are you crafting fine print for a policy? How would it play in the bold text of a billboard? ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode L
  16. 16. MARCH! Physical movement motivates mental movement. Go for a walk, stretch, or jog in place. M ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode
  17. 17. NOMINATE AN AUTHOR If you could delegate your writing to someone else, who would you recruit and why? Aim high, and write a detailed, fictional letter of nomination. “Dear Stephen King, your ability to keep attention and describe horrific truths will be a real asset to this project ...” N ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode
  18. 18. OWN IT Your final version will need to be about the audience, not you. But for now, just to build momentum on that first draft, start every sentence with “I,” like this: “I see you’ve checked my LinkedIn profile 5 times this month. I have a feeling you’ve narrowed the field to me and one other candidate. I’m the one for the job. I will tell you why ...” These casual statements will get you going; you can scour out the “I” language later (see B). ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode O
  19. 19. PLAY A GAME Race the clock. How many words can you write in 3 minutes? Promise yourself a prize (see E). ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode P
  20. 20. QUANTIFY YOUR MESSAGE Try a numbered list (5 reasons you need this product), an equation (3 issues x 6 more months = exponential risk), or a data chart (what’s the wedge of red keeps your pie chart from being 100% green?). ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode Q
  21. 21. READ Choose something related to your subject, or not. Take in someone else’s words: a book chapter, a recipe, a news article, a poem, a cereal box. Just don’t fall down a rabbit hole. When time is up (see G), get back to writing. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode R
  22. 22. STAND UP You don’t need a fancy elevated desk. Get on your feet, bend over that notebook or keyboard, and write from a somewhat uncomfortable position, just for a few minutes. Stretch, sit, and keep writing. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode S
  23. 23. TRANSLATE FOR A FOREIGNER No need to go bilingual. Think of someone who knows nothing about your subject matter. Your hard-of-hearing but sharp-as-a- tack grandma. Your high-energy 8-year-old. Your neighbor’s cousin’s brother who lives off the grid. How would you explain your point to one of them? ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode T
  24. 24. UP-END THE WORK ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode U Write from the bottom up. Closing first, then middle, then opening.
  25. 25. VENT Write every reason you resent the project. Express your frustrations. Lose your sh*t. Get it all out there on the page, then get back to business. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode V
  26. 26. WHISPER Literally: talk to yourself (or your imaginary friend) in hushed tones. Write what you hear yourself say. Or figuratively: write small. Pick up a pen and use teeny-weeny handwriting or, if you’re writing on screen, choose a minuscule font. Why? Because as you fixate on how to write, you’ll stop obsessing about what to write. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode W
  27. 27. X-RAY YOUR CONCEPT Instead of aiming for a fully fleshed message, find just the bones. You could call this “developing an outline,” but wouldn’t it be more fun to say you’re “conjuring a skeleton?” ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode X
  28. 28. YELP YOURSELF Imagine your message is done and delivered. Your audience is so moved, they write a review. How many stars do you get? What colorful phrases do they use to express their satisfaction or displeasure? Y ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode
  29. 29. ZOOM IN Rather than trying to write a fully formed message with several points or sections, choose one. Pour all your energy into writing every detail of that idea. Write way too much about just one thing. When you’ve run out of things to say, choose another point and go again. ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode Z
  30. 30. The Corporate Poet & Cutter of C.R.A.P. Story Mode Co-Founder Beth refuses bland and boring. She guides individuals and organizations to string words and images into stories that motivate people to think, believe, and take action. That’s how business gets done. She is a communicator, leader, advisor, teacher, illustrator, and founder of Spencer Grace. With extensive experience in corporate communication and change management, she gets results through creativity, good questions, and active listening. She’s also a daily practice junkie who takes on insane creative challenges, like writing a poem or drawing a picture every day for a year. @BethNyland | BETH NYLAND ©2020StoryMode,StoryStudioChicagoLtd.andSpencerGraceLLC.AllRightsReserved. | #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode About the Author
  31. 31. IT'S EASY TO GET UNSTUCK WHEN YOU'RE IN STORY MODE To learn how you, your team, or your whole organization can get in Story Mode, visit Start with a WEBSHOP: a long-distance learning experience unlike all the rest. Story Mode's virtual sessions are productive, engaging, and absolutely not boring. ©2020 Story Mode, StoryStudio Chicago Ltd. and Spencer Grace LLC. All Rights Reserved. #RefuseToBeBoring #GetInStoryMode ORGANIZE A WEBSHOP for your team