What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Many people are on the go 24/7. Overworked, overcommitted, and overstimulated seems to be the norm these days. It’s harder than ever to slow down long enough to connect with ourselves and find the solutions we need.

I’m a writer. Years ago, I had a wonderful literary agent representing my novel. It was actually the third book I’d completed, but the first for which I had representation. She was a well-respected agent; I was even friends with one of her clients. Long story short, I discovered she was wrong for me. I worked for long and hard to get an agent, but now it was a mess.

What was I going to do?

Write it Out

Journal to problem-solve.

Okay, okay, I hear the groans, but stay with me. I’m not talking New-Agey mumbo-jumbo here. You don’t have to keep a daily diary. I’m talking about writing to find solutions.

Write in order to make your world right.

Writing is an excellent tool for finding solutions because it incorporates both our left and right sides of the brain. I’ve been using this process for 18 years.

Here’s what you do.

Write on Fire

1. Butt in chair – Enough said.

2. Pick Your Poison – Either write by hand, or type at the computer. If you’re hand writing, don’t use a pretty, little journal. They’re expensive and you feel compelled to only write pretty, little thoughts. You need space to gripe and groan, mumble and moan. I use either a legal pad, or a thick, multi-subject notebooks like from high school.

For computers, you can use the word processor available in your program. I’ve also heard good things about The Journal software. I’m told it lets you write, add images and is password protected. It costs $49.95, but there’s a free 45-day trial.

3. Write on Fire – Once you’ve chosen your method, write out the question/situation troubling you. Next, write as fast as you can without stopping, editing, or criticizing. Don’t censor your thoughts. This is for your eyes only. Turn your brain off and your hands on. Write anything to get started, like: I don’t what to say. This is stupid. I hate this. It’s not working.

Eventually, your brain will tire of your whining and start to focus on the problem. List all your negative feelings about the situation: How unfair it is. How angry you are. The sadness it brings up. Get everything out on paper. The more you write, the more the process is working.

4. Hello, Fear. I’ve Been Expecting You – It may take pages and pages to vent all your anger, but underneath that rage, don’t be surprised to find good ol’ fashioned Fear. That’s Fear with a capital ‘F.’ Fear of failure. Fear of success. That’s Fear’s job. To keep us small and in our place. Status quo. To not let make positive changes. Write through the Fear.

5. How to Get Unstuck – At some point, you’ll want to quit before you’ve reached a resolution. When you want to stop that’s GOOD! It means you’ve struck a nerve and are onto something important for yourself…a possible solution, maybe an idea, or perhaps a change in attitude. When you keep writing even when you don’t want to, you blast through the gripes and groans, then start to discover the answers you need.

6. Write Until The End – This isn’t a timed exercise. I wish I could tell you how long it takes to find your answers, but life isn’t that simple. It may take 20 minutes, or it may take you all afternoon. The key is to stick with it until you start to form an action plan.

What if I Hate to Write?

Forget that grumpy English teacher who tortured you in the classroom growing up. This isn’t writing for a grade, or publication. It doesn’t matter about bad grammar, poor spelling, or cuss words. Your resistance to writing may very well be Fear in disguise (read #4 again).

For me, it took plenty of time, pages and patience. I learned that despite my agent’s impressive resume, I had to part ways with her and did so. Soon after, I also got the idea for my next novel. It’s my strongest book to date and I found the right agent for me.

Was it easy? No.

Did it take time? Yes.

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Nobody has a perfect life, but this is what I always do when I don’t know what to do. Good luck.

What do you think about this process? Have you ever journaled to help you find solutions? Please share a comment with me.

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