Posts Tagged: work

How to Find Motivation When You’re Stuck in a Rut


It happens to all of us. Even if you’re a cool Creative Lady, you’re bound to get stuck in a rut every once in awhile. Maybe the thought of sitting down at your computer for even one more second makes you want to scream. Maybe the project you’ve been working on just fills you with dread and despair. Or maybe you can’t even come up with any ideas for something else to work on! Either way, it’s a crappy feeling. I’ve been there many a time, and I’ve lived to tell the tale (as far as you know, anyway…I could totally be writing this as a motivation-obsessed ghost).

When you work a lot, as many of us do, it’s hard to stay motivated. This is especially true with creative work. It can be hard enough as it is to create something, but to do it when you’re not in the right mindset is brutal. So how are you supposed to get out of that rut and get back your creative inspiration? Well, I can’t guarantee you anything, but I can share a few tips with you. This is what I do when I get stuck in a creative/work rut.

1. Take a walk. I know, I know. This is O Magazine 101 level advice. But listen, a walk can cure just about anything that ails you (except for actual diseases). There’s something about the combination of movement and new sights that can spark some inspiration. Also sometimes you’ll see people with puppies and then you’ll get to pet the puppies and then the people will think you’re weird because you shouted “Your puppy is SO TINY!” at them (I may be speaking from personal experience).

2. Make something else. Let’s say you’re stuck on your writing. It can be incredibly helpful to do something else creative that is in no way related to writing. Maybe you should try making pizza dough. While you’re wondering why your dough didn’t rise and cursing yeast, you just might get an idea for your project. Or maybe you should try sewing something. Switching to another form of creativity helps you make new connections in your brain (probably…I don’t know, I totally made that up. I’m not a scientist, you guys!).

3. Experience something new. For me, the best cure for a general feeling of malaise is experiencing something new. Go see a movie you don’t know anything about. Listen to a new album. Check out a store you haven’t visited yet. If a friend calls and asks you to go do something you’d normally say no to, say yes! All of these new experiences will get you out of the house, fill your head with new stimuli, and maybe even give you a new story or detail you can use in something later. I like staying in and working as much as/probably more than the next girl, and there’s definitely a time for that. But there’s only so much motivation to be found inside your house.

4. Hang out with people who are passionate. I don’t just mean creative people. It’s good to hang out with people who are passionate about anything in their lives. All of my friends are driven and excited by their career or educational paths, and I always feel invigorated after I hang out with them. My best friend Cat is passionate about animals, my friend Carrie is passionate about librarianship, and my friend is Jessie is passionate about life in general. And that’s just the tip of the metaphorical friend iceberg! It’s good to hang out with people who aren’t just going through the motions.This isn’t to suggest you should drop someone just because they aren’t motivated or positive, of course. Everyone has down days. But if you’re constantly surrounding yourself with bummed out people, don’t be surprised if you wind up feeling bummed out, too.

5. Write it down. I’m a BIG proponent of writing things down. It’s a great way to center yourself and focus on your priorities. Also, sometimes writing can help you figure out a solution to a problem you didn’t even know you had.

6. Read a book. I don’t mean you should pick up a novel, although that’s a great idea too! I’m talking about self-help books or books specific to your work. I like to read things about writing or freelancing when I feel stuck. Something totally hippie, like Writing Down the Bones or The Artist’s Way, is super-effective for me when I’m feeling unmotivated. You can also go for straight up self-help. You can laugh at the concept of manifestation all you want, but honestly, I got a LOT done when I was listening to Wayne Dyer’s The Secrets to Manifesting Your Destiny. I think self-help books are so effective because reading them requires you to admit that you’re open to change, which can only be a good thing.

7. Give into the feeling. Listen, let’s get real. Sometimes you’re just going to feel unmotivated. That’s life. We can’t realistically work every hour of every day. I’m not talking about day jobs here. Don’t call up your boss and be like, “Ugh, I read on this blog that I should take some time off, smell ya later.” I just meant that if you’re facing a huge block in your creative work, sometimes that means you need a break. Time to recharge is good! It’s fine to take some time to just live your life without stressing about it.

What about you guys? What do you do when you’ve lost your motivation and you’re stuck in a rut?

Lady Tip: Only Hang Out With Hard Workers

You know how it’s kind of a thing for newspaper trend pieces to talk about how 20 somethings are so lazy? And how they rely on their parents and are really entitled and blah blah blah Girls or something? I’m getting pretty tired of those articles, because seriously, I realized recently that all of my close friends are incredibly hard workers.

As you probably know, my BFF is in vet school, which is pretty damn difficult last time I checked. Another one of my close friends is a freelancer who’s always working. Other friends of mine have one or two jobs while they’re in grad school, or they have two jobs while being a single mom, or they have a job while spending all their free time pursuing a creative passion on the side.

In my opinion (because what is this blog about, if not my opinions?), those are the best kind of friends to have. The people who are always working themselves to the bone to do what they love. Most of my friends aren’t writers, and some of them have careers I can’t even begin to understand (again, vet school! There’s a lot of science involved!), but it really doesn’t matter. Just the act of being around people who are passionate, driven, and hard working is the best thing you can do for your own work ethic. When I go home after an evening of talking to my friends, I always feel inspired, energized, and ready to work.

I’m not saying you should ditch a friend if his or her only hobby is watching TV. I mean, I love TV, too! I’m about to dive into this week’s New Girl while I go to town on a plate of chicken strips. But the more time you spend with people who can’t stop talking about how excited they are to do what they do, the better your own work will be.

How to Find Time for Writing When You Have a Day Job

jean harlow typewriter
Face it: very few writers are able to make a living on writing alone. This fact used to depress me when I heard it in college. How could these brilliant artists have to suffer the indignity of moonlighting as teachers, technical writers, or office assistants? What hope was there for any of us when even serious writers couldn’t make bank?

Now I realize that this is actually encouraging. Writers aren’t some rarefied breed…any of us, even those of us with day jobs, can be writers! We are not all Jonathan Franzen (and thank God for that). Writers don’t all sit in some immaculate home office all day and type from sun up till sun down. Writing isn’t just for the rich…it’s for all of us! Even us working slobs!

Of course, this brings up a question that people sometimes (okay, like two times) ask me: How do you find time for writing when you have a day job?

To be honest, I don’t have a great answer to that one. I constantly feel like I’m not getting enough done. Between my day job, my blog, my freelance writing, and, oh yeah, that book I’m writing, it seems like there’s more work than I can ever possibly do. I feel guilty ever spending a second not working, and my way of dealing with guilt is by wasting time (I didn’t say I made sense). I’m not perfect, but I can tell you what I do to get a decent amount of writing work done while still clocking in at my 9-5 gig everyday.

1. You don’t find time, you make time.
Okay, I know this is a dumb saying, but it’s true. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. You’re not just going to magically stumble on another secret hour you can use to write. You have to make that time yourself. You can do it by waking up early, staying up late, or just spending the time you’d normally spend watching television on writing.

2. You have to sacrifice something (and that’s okay).
I’ll admit, I don’t really understand the concept of balance. If you want to pursue anything creative while you have a day job, your life isn’t going to be balanced. Something has to go. It’s up to you to decide what to jettison. This is going to make me sound like a crazy asocial weirdo, but I have almost no social life, which is great for writing. I have wonderful friends, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve never really enjoyed going out. Typically when I get home from work, I have dinner with my fella, then I get to writing or reading. Every night. It’s not “exciting,” per se, but it’s the life I want. If your social life is super important to you, then find something else you can cut out! Is it TV? Is it sleep (okay, don’t cut out sleep, but think about how much you actually need)? There’s probably something taking up your precious time that you can cut out.

3. You have to let yourself do it.
I’m my own biggest obstacle. My self-doubt and laziness are always what get in my way, and I know a lot of writers are the same way. It’s impossible to ever get anything done if you don’t admit to yourself that what you’re doing is worth doing. If it’s important to you, then it’s worth doing. It can seem like a waste of time to do something that makes little or no money, but doing what you want to do with your life is never a waste of time.

4. Cut out the distractions. I’m still trying to figure out how to do this one. I don’t watch a lot of TV or go out, but I do have an internet addiction. As I wrote this post, I checked Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Wasting time isn’t cute, and it’s a struggle for me. One thing that works is using Freedom. Seriously, I can’t recommend it enough. It disables your internet for a predetermined amount of time, meaning you can’t refresh Tumblr or Facebook stalk someone you hate. You have to write. I’m also a fan of writing in a notebook, that way I can’t get distracted by everything else on my computer.

5. Sometimes, you need a break. Okay, I know I said earlier that you need to sacrifice and cut out distractions and blah blah blah. That’s all true. But sometimes, you really do need to go out for drinks with your ladyfriends or watch a movie or make a really elaborate meal. Consuming art, creating things with your hands, or engaging in interesting conversations will only help your work! You need to fill up the well (The Artist’s Life reference alert!) and recharge.

6. Write down the ideas when you have them. Carry a notebook (or use your iPhone) and write down the ideas, phrases, etc. you think of throughout the day. You’ll forget them otherwise. Even if you think you won’t, you will! Personally, I get a lot of inspiration for new pieces when I’m working on something else (it’s weird how the brain works!), but I can’t just drop what I’m doing at my job and start working on writing. So I make a note to myself and come back to it later on when I’m home.

7. Get a ritual. Sara Zarr talked about this a little on her podcast, This Creative Life. Her ritual when she got home from her day job used to be having a glass of wine and a cigarette. It helped her mark the transition from day job to writer. I’m not suggesting your ritual involve cigarettes, but it can help to have something you always do while writing. Lighting a specific candle, drinking coffee, or listening to a certain album or Pandora station can all help. Or maybe putting on the newest Taylor Swift album and listening to it on repeat (that one may be a personal example).

8. Get a job you like or a job that’s easy, but don’t get a job you hate. Nothing will sap your creative energy like a negative work environment. If you wake up dreading work and grumble and complain your way through the day, you probably won’t be super excited or motivated to work when you get home. And if you have bad coworkers, you’ll spend precious energy hating them that could much better directed towards your work. If you have a job you like, you’ll mostly wake up happy(ish), you’ll enjoy yourself during the day (or night), and you’ll come home in a good mood with a good attitude. I love my day job, and I love having a chance to flex different muscles during the day. It doesn’t drain me or depress me, so when I come home, I’m ready to work on something else.
And if you have a job that’s easy, even if you don’t like it all that much, at least it won’t take up a lot of mental space, which will give you time to daydream about writing. And sometimes you’ll even be able to write on the job (but I wouldn’t recommend this for a job you care about! Do this only if you’re at a truly dead end job!).
Obviously, you can’t always help what job you have. You know your work situation better than I do, and you know if this crappy job is truly your only option. But if you’re just hanging onto a bad job because of fear or a sense of obligation and you sense it’s hampering your ability to create, by all means, get out now!

9. Don’t let yourself make any excuses.
So maybe you have a day job. Maybe you’re a mom. Maybe you have two jobs and you’re a mom. It doesn’t matter. Always remember that someone out there who’s busier than you is doing more work than you. That’s a fact I have absolutely no evidence to back up, but I believe it. Excuses just let you give up before you even tried. Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, you need to take that 15 minutes and use it and not complain that you don’t have more. Nothing good ever comes to people who spend their time complaining about all the breaks they don’t have. Sure, maybe you don’t have a trust fund so you can’t just stay home in your yoga pants all day and write, but you know what? Very few people have that. Don’t let yourself make any excuses. None! If you’re reading this and you want to write, you can do it. This is another dumb cliche, but you’re the only one standing in your way.

10. Don’t beat yourself up. None of us are perfect. Some days, you just won’t get that much done. Try not to feel too guilty about it. Start over again tomorrow and get back to work!

What about you guys? How do you manage to write when you have a day job? Let me know in the comments! And as always, feel free to shoot me an email at if you just want to chat.

Lady Tip #16: Wear Your Cranky Pants with Style

Today’s Lady Tip comes to us courtesy of Caroline, who blogs at Four Letter Birds. Take it away, Caroline!

Hello, residents of Ladyville! It’s nice to meet you. My name is Caroline and I’m so excited to be contributing a lady tip to Kerry’s lovely blog here. When Kerry asked me, I spent a few days thinking about things I’ve learned that I wanted to share, and a big one for me recently has been…

Wearing my cranky pants with style.

I know. I know. So often we wake up in the morning, and work super hard to leave our cranky pants at home and go to the office (or school, or your non-office place of work) with a smile on our faces and a positive attitude. It seems crazy for me to be saying to you that sometimes it’s okay to shimmy into those cranky pants, and wear them to work with cranky pride. Let me explain to you why.

My lady friends and I have been in the workforce for a while now – most of my friends are in their late twenties or early thirties, so university and part-time jobs are a while ago. Whenever we catch up over coffee or for dinner, the conversation (naturally) often turns to what’s going on in our working lives. Many of us have nine to five corporate office type jobs, although my outfits aren’t nearly as great as Dolly Parton’s were in the movie “Nine to Five.” Nor is my hair as amazing.


What surprises me, and sometimes makes me a little sad, is how hard we ladies sometimes find it to speak up for ourselves if there is a situation at work that we are unhappy with. Maybe your talents are being under-utilised and under appreciated. Sure, we all have to pay our dues making coffees and photocopying endless documents, but if you feel like that time has passed and you can offer more to your boss and your workplace, shouldn’t that be a good thing? If your manager or boss has a good head on their shoulders, they should see your ambitiousness and willing to contribute as one of your many positive traits rather than something to be overlooked. Sometimes we ladies can be our own worst enemies – we second guess ourselves instead of trusting our instincts, or we don’t speak up, assuming that we’ll be cut down before we take that chance.

I am very lucky. Although I work in a supportive and lady friendly office, it wasn’t always this way. A few years ago I worked with an older (female) colleague who took every opportunity she could to belittle me, and to blame me for her own mistakes or lack of knowledge. Let’s call this lady Beverly. As the newest and youngest member of the team, I just quietly accepted this behaviour and just learned to avoid Beverly whenever possible. It wasn’t until we had a new manager join the team, who pointed out to me that I was being systematically bullied that a little fire grew inside of me and I started to stand up for myself. I disagreed with the things Bev said in meetings – not to be difficult, but because I honestly believed in what I was saying. When Bev asked me to do a menial task that she could have easily performed for herself – sending a letter, or printing a document for example – I pushed back. Instead of saying no, I said “Sure Bev. I’m pretty busy today, but I can do it for you tomorrow morning if you like?” More often than not, she would end up doing it herself.

Very slowly, I started speaking up for myself – using my voice, instead of remaining silent and accepting things the way they were. It’s a lesson that has served me well. My willingness to speak up and point out things that aren’t ideal and then suggesting improvements that can be made has helped me to build strong relationships with the managers I have had since then, and also to build a reputation as someone who has a good head on her shoulders and is worth listening to.

I can hear you asking, “What does this have to do with wearing my cranky pants with style?” Well, let me tell you. A lot of the time in life, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. And when, to some extent. Timing is everything, and being able to point out a problem and also offer a solution goes a long way in the workplace. A lot of people will just say “Hey boss, I’ve noticed that we have this problem and it’s stopping us reaching our goal of selling five thousand avocados this week.” And that’s where they’ll stop. Wearing your cranky pants with style, is pointing out the problem but also having a helpful suggestion on how to fix it. It will get you noticed, it will make you an appreciated and valued member of your team. And it will also get you out of that cranky rut you’ve been in, because something or someone is making your work life difficult.

Ladies you are intelligent beings, and your ideas are of value! Next time something is really grinding your gears, try thinking of a constructive solution and then speak up. You won’t regret it.



Caroline is from Sydney, Australia and you can often find her blogging with her sister over at You can also find her on Twitter at @CarrieBean_ Let’s all give her a big virtual round of applause. Actually, let’s make it a slow clap that starts with one person and then gradually builds into raucous applause, like in a movie. That’s better. If you’d like to write a Lady Tip for Welcome to Ladyville, send me an email at