When You Feel Stuck: A Child’s Advice

In class today, a long line of students approached me for final tips on their drafts. Student after student cried out, “Dr. H! I feel stuck! This paper is stuck!”

I asked all the obvious questions like “Where is it stuck and why is it stuck?” Just articulating the problem often pries loose whatever has clogged the wheel. And when I blow some fresh energy into their papers by just saying, “What if you told us more about this right here?” it’s often enough to get things moving. I remember the wise counselor who told me that every system needs fresh energy and fresh intelligence or the whole system implodes. That’s one of the reasons why having writing workshops helps. We all need fresh input.

But I see the slumping shoulders, hear the tired sighs, and remember the exasperation: This is stuck. 

So all afternoon, I’m thinking about all those students and how stuck they felt. I pick up my youngest daughter from school, and I present the problem to her because I know that children have a secret wisdom hidden from us adults. “Kate,” I say, “What would you tell a student who came up to you and said, ‘My writing is stuck’?”

Kate simply says this: “Just tell them to put it down today and start again tomorrow and it will all work out.”

In other words, stop trying to unstick things that might just work themselves out in the night. Tomorrow is a new day to live and write.

I think there’s some wisdom there. I wish I would have told my students to take a break and come back at it tomorrow with fresh eyes.

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