Need Help Getting Unstuck? Me Too!

I have to be honest with you. I’m stuck.

For the past two weeks I have been struggling. Staring at a blank screen for hours. Banging my head against the preverbial wall. Writing the same sentence over and over again with nothing more than a slight change in the order of words. And with little more to show for it than a few pages of incoherent notes.

You see, I have something important to say. Really important. But I don’t know how to say it. Or perhaps I don’t quite know what “it” is. Or maybe I am just putting too much pressure on myself and that is causing me to get stuck.

It’s not a blog post. Those come pretty easy to me now. At least a lot easier than they used to. It’s not a book either. I wouldn’t pace the room like this over a long term project like a book. I would just shake it off and then get back to writing.

It’s something in between. Longer than a blog post and shorter than a book. But more important than both.

Like a manifesto. A mission statement. Or some type of grand statement. A challenge to both myself and the world.

It’s my Jerry Maguire moment. You remember that scene, don’t you? No…not the “show me the money” part. The other scene.

I’m not really sure how else to explain it. I just know it’s something big. And it’s something that I need to share. If I could only get it out of my head.

Slight Change in Plans

So, I know this isn’t the way it usually works. But today I need your help. Your advice. And your inspiration.

I need you to help get me unstuck. And in helping me here, maybe we can all help each other. After all, each of us has been stuck on something like this at some point in our lives, right? Maybe you’re stuck right now.

So if you have any advice to help “unstuck” me and anyone else out there that wants to do something important, something bigger than themselves, please join the conversation in the comments below. We all need you right now. Especially me. So don’t be shy.

And thanks for giving me the space here on this blog to not be perfect. To not always have to have all of the answers. To need your help and inspiration every now and then. And to feel comfortable enough to ask for it!

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  • Michelle_Mazur

    My best advice is talk out what you want to write with some trusted advisors. I’d get a mix of people. Friends are great, but you want to chat with mentors or a coach. Ask to record the conversations. If they say no, take copious notes. I am always surprised how someone else can organize my thoughts in a such a simple manner just by listening to me. Sometimes we just need a little outside perspective and to say what is on our mind (instead of write) to get unstuck. It also goes without saying (but I will anyway), if you ever need to bounce ideas off me – I’m here too! Good luck, Marc!

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Michelle! Great advice! As I said in the response to Kats comment, I took your advice and spoke with a good friend and coach today and it was a huge help in getting some of this stuff out of my head! Thanks!

      And a very special, super duper thanks for offering to be a sounding board. You are too good to me!

      • Michelle_Mazur

        But now the real question do you feel less stuck? :-)

  • Kat Pedersen

    I agree – all you have to do is talk to someone. Whenever my friends get stuck, I tell them to take their eyes off the screen, look at me, and tell me what they’re trying to say. It works every time, and it’s usually more clear an concise than anything they would have typed.

    • Marc Ensign

      Great advice! I actually took your advice today and spoke with a good friend and coach and just talked through some of what was swimming around in my head and it was a big help!! Thanks Kat!!

  • Sharon Reichert

    My advice for beating writer’s block of any kind has always been to just write. Write something, write anything, write about nothing. Describe the room you’re sitting in, write about the oatmeal you had for breakfast. Just put words down on paper (or computer screen), even if they don’t make sense, and keep doing that until you get un-stuck or unblocked.
    Don’t know if that will help, but it has worked for me in the past.

    • Marc Ensign

      I think you made it worse Sharon! I didn’t have oatmeal for breakfast! How am I going to write about oatmeal if I didn’t have oatmeal!?!!? Just kidding…

      This comes down to something Sarah said earlier on her blog post about revising as I’m writing. I just need to start writing without being so critical of every word as I’m writing, just get it out of my head!! Thanks!

  • VeronicaSicoe

    The best way to identify that “IT” that yearns to be expressed, is to try as many versions of it as possible — write a small manifesto for every single thing you really believe in, every single thing your world would not be your world and you would not be you without. Declare every single idea a law without which you would be a flickering simulacrum of yourself living in a wisp of a world. Write it down. Try to live up to it for a day, at least in your mind, see if it expands you as a person. If it does, awesome. If it doesn’t—and almost all you’ll come up with won’t—then you can rule it out, because it’s not “IT.”

    By the time you’re really really crystal clear what your IT is, the means to express it best and turn it into a daily reality will be clear. Trust me. :)

    • Marc Ensign

      I love that Veronica! Thanks! I’m going to give this a shot…I’ll keep you posted!!! Maybe we can swap results when I get through a few of these!

  • Linda Terjesen

    One of my favorite quotes on writing…author E.L. Doctorow
    once compared writing to driving at night. He said, “You can never see further
    than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Inspiring because I know I can take it one step at a time and get there….eventually : )

    • Marc Ensign

      Thank Linda (with an i)…didn’t want to confuse you with Lynda (with a y) from an earlier comment. Anyway, I love that quote!! Thank you so much for sharing it with me/us!

  • Allison Boyer

    Don’t get too frustrated with yourself. Writing something that’s so close to you like a manifesto takes time and can’t really be planned. It’s a piece of your soul vomited onto paper. Sure, you can stick your finger down your throat, but you’ll feel so much better if you just way until you’re bursting and can’t hold it in anymore.

    Ick. I totally just grossed myself out.

    When I’m working on something like that, I usually start an inspiration file: Sentences or thoughts I want to include, words and clever turns of phrase that I like, examples I want to give. That way when I do feel bursting at the seams and finally ready to write, I can go back and read that all to get really inspired, kinda like listening to the Rocky Theme or Eye of the Tiger.

    Which I do as well. No joke.

    Good luck with your writing, Marc!!

    • Marc Ensign

      Great. I tried taking your advice by sticking my foot down my throat and now I have a really bad leg cramp! :)

      Love the idea of the inspirational thoughts and stuff to come back to. Even the music to get you juiced. Cue up Eye of the Tiger!!

  • Simon Thompson

    Marc what about some “how 2 specifics” on Wordpess-Write us a recipe on the nuts and bolts of blogging for a change.The technical “how to fry an egg stuff” that you know so well and we don’t. :)

    • Marc Ensign

      As much as I would love to Simon, but the how to stuff in this space is so overdone and not very inspirinig to me. There are others that could do the step by step much better than me. You, perhaps? :)

  • Sarah Penner

    I actually just blogged about writers block myself. and someone commented and recommended ‘outlining or storyboarding’. Something to get the words flowing without the pressure of it needing to be stunning. :) Maybe this will help you.
    I also find Kevin Kaisers blog on writing magnificent when I am ‘stuck’. This one is good as is most of what he blogs. :)

    • Marc Ensign

      Hi Sarah! Thanks for the link. I just read your post and loved it. Especially your Aunts advice:

      “The critical voice and the creative voice can’t really speak at the same time.  Might be time to try to do some bad writing.”

      I love that because I am so guilty of editing and revising as I write and I think that has been my big downfall this time around! Thanks for sharing!!

      • Sarah Penner

        So glad it helped! It was a realization moment for me too.

  • Mike Goldman

    Go out for a loooong walk. Bring your phone, or something else you can record with, and just record your ideas, ramblings, etc. There’s something about walking that get the creative juices flowing. If you’re anything like me, you’ll wind up with 35 different little snipits of ideas that you can piece together into something great.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Mike! You and I have actually talked about that in the past! I’m on it…went for a short walk today but plan on going out early tomorrow morning for an hour and see what spills out! Thanks!! And when I’m done with this “manifesto” you’ll be the first to read it!

  • Kaleshia Holmes

    I would suggest a change of scenery. For me, when I would take the “EL” in Chicago, I always kept my notepad in my purse because that’s when the thoughts would just flow. Or maybe a walk on the beach/park will allow you to clear your head and let nature provide you with a source of inspiration.
    I really LOVE your articles, by the way! Keep sharing!

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Kaleshia! I appreciate the feedback and sharing a little love! A few people have brought up going out for a walk, run, ride and changing scenery. That is definitely something I am going to force myself to do more of!! Thank you!

      Oh, and Chicago is one of my favorite cities. I spent about 5 weeks there a few weeks ago…loved it! It was the summer though…

  • Nancy Hawley

    Have you tried the Unstuck app? It’s free for iPad, and it helps with all kinds of situations, including writer’s block. Just go to the iTunes app store to download it.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Nancy! I just started downloading. It looks really cool!! Here’s a link if anyone is looking for it:

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks again for the suggestion Nancy! LOVE the Unstuck app!!!

  • themightyrenegade

    Start with one thing. Just one. You mention that you have something really important to say, but you’re not sure how to say it and you’re not sure what it is. So start with putting one sentence down. What’s the most important thing you could communicate to someone? Limit it to just one sentence. If you were on your death bed (not to get too morbid, but it tends to put a little more urgency in the situation) and you had enough breath for one sentence to sum-up what you wanted someone to know, what would it be? And don’t make it a run-on sentence because that’s cheating.

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Brian!! Love this advice! This definitely struck a chord with me. I have a pretty firm grip on what that sentence is. Now I just need to expand on it! Thanks brother! 😉

      • themightyrenegade

        That’s the trick. It’s a little bit of reverse psychology, but it works. Sometimes when we are forced to limit ourselves (and it works in many other aspects of our lives outside of writing), we start seeing all of the ‘other’ things we also want to say/do. By attempting to prioritize things, starting with the most important (which, quite frankly, changes day to day for me), we’re then able to see how long our list really is.
        OK, time to step down off of this soap box. I’m starting to smell too much like vanilla daffodils.
        As always, you da man. It’s your world, I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut…

  • Mel Smith

    There are some really good ideas here. I agree with some of the others. Just write and write and write. Put one foot down in front of the other. Even if it’s total gibberish. Seth Godin wrote a post on this which will probably explain it better than I can.
    Or maybe you can take a break. Often when you take a break your head will be a lot clearer when you start back up again. Do some vigorous excercise or do something that inspires you or you are passionate about and let that be your catalyst.
    Finally, maybe you can take a tape recorder and record your thoughts verbally first and then transcribe any good bits.
    This probably didn’t help you but I hope it did in some small way :)

    • Marc Ensign

      Now, now Mel…don’t end by poo pooing your advice! I appreciate it and yes, it’s very helpful! I love hearing all of these different points of view. Including the article by Seth.

      I’m an avid cyclist and would have such epiphanies while out on the road on my bike. Unfortunately I hurt my knee a few months ago doing a charity ride so I have been missing out on the vigorous exercise. I’m going to have to replace it with something else! Thanks again!!

      • Mel Smith

        Haha sorry, self-doubt’s a bitch. I hope your knee gets better. I am a horse rider and would hate to injure myself and not be able to ride. Although falling and sometimes hurting yourself comes with the territory I’m afraid haha.

  • LyndawithaY

    I don’t believe in writer’s block. I know that there are some days when it’s just plain sucky, but write anyway. Crack open the Artist’s Way again. Read Natalie Goldberg and Anne Lamott. Check out prompts from Also, give yourself a break, a day off, go do something totally fun and silly. Hang out with a friend who makes you laugh and help somebody out. Get out of your own head. Go to the ocean (that helps me a lot). If you wake up at 3:00 like Jerry Maguire, then for God sakes, grab a pen!

    • Marc Ensign

      Hi Lynda (with a y)! Thank you so much for your comment. I pretty much agree with you. I don’t really believe in writers block…and I don’t believe I have writers block even if I believed in writers block. Whew, that was a mouthful. I think where I am is more overwhelm. Having something big that you want to share and feeling that pressure of wanting to get it right. Right after I respond to everyone here I am going to check out Sarah’s site. Thanks for the suggestion!!

      -Marc (with a c)

  • Josh Shear

    Just write it. Whatever it is, either open a notebook and write it longhand (you know, with a pen — remember doing that?), or close everything else, stick your phone in the refrigerator (or the oven), open Notepad++ and write it.

    Worry about the venue later, after you write it and figure out what it is.

    If you wait to figure out what it is, you’re not going to write it.

    • Marc Ensign

      And there lies my problem. I am so critical of what I am writing while I am writing, I sometimes get stuck because I can’t get a specific sentence right so I can’t move on. Just write. Seems like simple advice. It is. I’ll give it a shot!

      • Josh Shear

        You can always edit later. Or better yet, have someone else edit it and give you input as to where it should go.

  • Mordecai Holtz

    If it’s writers block then I go for a run or workout and ideas come to mind…or I speak it out with others..

    • Marc Ensign

      Thanks Mordecai! I’m not much of a runner but I went out for a nice 3 1/2 mile walk this morning and it definitely helped a lot! Thanks!!

  • jkjeffcoat

    Hi Marc. Just read your blog and all the comments. I’m a little late to the game, so the things I would have suggested have been covered many times over; I just wanted to know how you were doing and which approaches (hopefully!) worked at getting you unstuck?? You’re an amazing writer, and I’m confident that your manifesto will be brilliant and eloquent.

    • Marc Ensign

      There’s no such thing as being late to the game. At least not around here there’s not. So, I took almost everyone’s advice. This morning I went for a long walk with my iPhone which can record notes and. Got some good stuff out (thanks Mike). I also downloaded the Unstuck app and gave that a shot (thanks Nancy)…by the way, it is an AWESOME app! I also started writing more without editing as I wrote (thanks Sarah!). And overall just tried what everybody suggested! I feel pretty unstuck. I’m sure I’ll be back here again though!

  • Melissa Ng

    Maybe you’re already unstuck but I figured I’d give it a go anyway since we’re all bound to get stuck again in the future (I’m really good at it).

    I actually stumbled on this advice from Susan Cain, who was referencing Steven Pavlina’s advice. I was skeptical at first but it was an interesting experience:

    1.) Take out a blank sheet of paper
    2.) Write, “What’s my true purpose in life?”
    3.) Write an answer (anything that comes to mind). Words or phrases are fine.
    4.) Repeat step 3 until you find an answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

    Purpose, life stance, manifesto, declaration–they all sort of fell into the same category for me. It’s helped me whenever I get a little lost. Perhaps it’ll be useful to you too.

    …or if that doesn’t work, I like to take a break and play some video games :)

    • Marc Ensign

      Hi Melissa! This is AWESOME advice! Thank you for sharing it! I was shown a similar exercise where you just keep asking “Why?” after each thing you come up with until you can’t come up with anything else. It forces your brain to dig down deeper and deeper.

      And if all else fails, play video games :)

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