What to do when you’re starting with a tangled mess.

You know how sometimes, you have an idea, and you want to work on it, but you just…can’t…seem…to?

It’s like when you’re trying to crochet, and your yarn is a nasty, tangled mess. The yarn is your raw idea –¬†you can’t start using a ball of yarn that’s all tangled. If you try to create something with tangled yarn, you’ll constantly be stopping in the middle of your work to untangle, clean, straighten, and fix things, instead of just being able to flow through the stitches and do what needs to be done.

So…how do you start untangling it?

First off, you need to figure out where exactly the tangle is and what it looks like. A lot of times we have this sort of “I don’t waaanna” vague stuckness that we can’t seem to work through, and then once you actually sit down with the problem for a few minutes, it becomes clear what it is.

I recently worked with a client who was having a really hard time putting out into the world an ebook that was, for all intents and purposes, finished. She just couldn’t bring herself to do it. After sitting with it for a while, and re-reading the ebook, she realized that all she really needed to do was rewrite the introduction – her writing style had changed since she first wrote it, and she didn’t want to put something out that didn’t sound like her. That was the source of the resistance.

Much like a knot, you probably won’t get anywhere by randomly pulling on strings. If you need to do that to figure out what’s wrong, that’s one thing; but doing it as a problem-solving strategy in & of itself is not very useful.

Once you figure out what your tangleproblem is, you can start figuring out how to solve it. I really like Havi‘s approach with this of “ways this could work” lists – for some reason, thinking of the lists that way really takes the pressure off, instead of starting the brainstorming with “possible solutions”.

And then, when you have your list of ways this could work, ways this tangle could be untangled…find the very first thing you need to do, and do it. Sounds simple, but it’s deceptively so.

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