As I was Saying: I Think I’m In a Rut

And I don’t know how to get out this time. I’m stuck.

We’ve all experienced a rut before; when our minds go slower, activities no longer entertain us, boredom creeps in. Creatively, it can be stifling. It can feel like the ideas going round in my head will end in disappointment, shrivelled up like a dead flower destined to never bloom. It reminds me of being a kid attempting to draw what I see in my mind, but never managing to make the picture mirror the image back to me. A rut means everything feels out of reach.

A life rut is a lot like writer’s block, where it won’t move unless it wants to, stubborn until the end. We can try to shift it, with exercise or with diving into the things we usually love, but there’s still an itch of frustration. Knowing something isn’t right.

A rut is uncomfortable, it’s a situation we can’t get out of easily. It can feel a lot like being trapped in a hole, attempting to reach out and grasp a helping hand that never seems to be in reach. And bringing the deadline season we’re coming into, the exam season?

This rut is something I need to shake.

So how am I going to get out? It isn’t easy, it feels a bit impossible but there’s a few things I can try. It could work, I could climb out. There’s one thing that’s important, one I want to share. I’ve found one of the best ways to get out of a rut is a thing that makes me squirm, like my mind rejects it because it means looking at myself a little differently. But putting it into practise can make the rut disappear, slowly. What is it?

Stop putting pressure on myself to be perfect first time.

When I say perfect, I don’t mean looking perfect. When I say perfect, I mean the pressure for my first draft on my uni work to be just right. The pressure of getting the grade I want pushing down on my back as soon as I start coursework. I put pressure on myself to accept nothing less than the very best I can do, in the worst way. I push my mind to the limit, but essays don’t begin perfect. The first draft is shoddy, badly written and with typos that make me wince as I reread them. My motivation can dull down, feeling like I can’t do what I’m hoping to do – that my work isn’t good enough.

I worry my work isn’t good enough. I fear making mistakes.

Perfectionism can come out in full force when we’re in a rut, even if we might normally not care for things to be strictly perfect in every area of our lives – I know I don’t always. But in a rut, anything created simply must be perfect. It’s because to do anything in a rut is difficult when everything feels mind-numbing, so to be able to produce or do something we want to do it perfectly. Otherwise it’s a waste of energy, or it reinforces the idea that we can’t do the things we want to do, that we’re somehow less.

To shake the feeling of perfectionism feels a bit like pulling my brains apart, telling it to breathe, to take its time. Everything feels like a marathon – starting is the hardest part. We put so much pressure on ourselves, especially at the end of the year. If it isn’t what we want, we discard it completely. We think we’re still stuck.

When we’re in a rut, we have to be kinder to ourselves. I don’t mean the face masks or the extra hot chocolate. To be kinder isn’t to pamper our body. I mean taking deep breaths with our eyes closed. Tapping out for 5 minutes and taking a walk around the library. Recognising where’s there’s potential, not obsessing with perfectionism. Taking our foot off the pedal for a bit, knowing we won’t lose our pace in work, that we won’t lose it all.

We can’t build an empire in a day, but we can start.

By Lou Ramsay