Wednesday 10 July 2013

Getting Unstuck: An Intervention by Shelley Noyes

Twice a year I am absolutely certain that I want to quit my job. I work part time in the PR department of a small college and my main responsibility is putting together a large part of the alumni magazine--writing obits, alumni news, alumni profiles etc. The magazine goes out twice a year, and twice a year I go into an all-out frenzy trying to meet my deadlines. My life comes to a screeching halt because Hey people! Stop the world! Don't you know I have a deadline!? I know that going into a frenzy doesn't help me or my family, or my work for that matter--but it is the only way I know how to get the work done.

As long as I can remember having deadlines to meet--beginning with my 8th grade essay "What the Gettysburg Address Means to Me"--I have relied on adrenaline and sheer panic to complete my work. And caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. This worked for me 20 years ago when I pulled all-nighters in college--but these days, I can't afford to keep the frenzy going. Not if I want to be there for myself, my long-suffering husband, and my 10 year old daughter, Sadie. These days I need a more sustainable way of completing my work.

My deadline for the latest issue of the alumni magazine steadily approaching at the time of this writing, and I'm starting to feel panicky. I hear this chastising voice voice in my head saying 'What's wrong with you? Why can't you put a few paragraphs together? You only work part-time and people in your office do WAY more than you have to do--why do you have to make such a BIG DEAL out of everything you do? Just sit at your desk and GET IT DONE!'

So I sit down at my desk and WILL myself to stay there until I am finished. But the longer I sit there staring at the computer screen, the more my brain REFUSES to put words together. So I get mad, furious. I look at my work and I think I HATE YOU stupid work! YOU ARE HORRIBLE! This is SO PAINFUL! You are causing me so much suffering! Why do you have to be so difficult?! I sooo have to quit my job. I look down and realize not only have I NOT written a single word--since I have spent the last of my brain energy wrestling with myself because because I feel so much resistance to doing the work. Here's the kicker: it's not even hard work. In fact if I didn't have to meet my deadline--I would LOVE the work.

I decided right then that I needed to take some time away to figure out what this resistance was all about. Against my logic-brain that said 'stay at work so you can make yourself get your work done'--I decided to take Tuesday afternoon off and stage an intervention for myself. I packed a picnic lunch and went to the local state park for the afternoon. All I brought was my lunch, my camera and my journal. And I just sat in the sun and wandered around and gave myself TIME to do nothing. To take a break from thinking about the stuff that was due--I just 'WAS.'

After an hour or so of blissful nothingness--I started writing and I realized that I have been so very stern and intense with myself about getting this done. And I came to accept that maybe I need MORE of this 'nothing' time during a big deadline--even though it seems counterintuitive. Because I wasn't getting anywhere with the yelling at myself or the panic or the constant demanding to keep focusing on the work. I was just wrestling with myself and taking up precious energy that could be used for finishing the project peacefully. I am working on accepting this as 'my way' of getting my creative work done--I need more of a cushion around myself at the exact time I don't think I have the time do take it. After that afternoon, I really was able to make progress on my project. I still have the huge looming deadline before me, but I know if I listen to myself and take the time I need to rest my brain--I will get it done.

My name is Shelley. I write about stuff that happens to me so you won't feel so alone. Email me at


  1. Shelley, this really spoke to me. So glad you took the time for blissful nothingness, and that you wrote about this struggle with the resistance so beautifully.

  2. Helen, thanks for your good words. Even thought this resistance to my creative work happens to me often, I'm always surprised. Is this resistance something you experience in your creative work? If so, I'd love to hear how you handle it. :)

  3. Whoops, the words should be'even THOUGH'...

  4. Shelley, I *love* your writing! And I love your process. Best of wishes as you create a new way of creating under pressure/without pressure!

  5. Kelly,
    Thanks for the encourgement! Sorry I just saw this comment now. Currently I'm heading into my crazy season again, and I have to read my own words and remember. :)