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

I feel lost.

I find myself with more time to myself than I’ve had in years, than I ever dared ask for. I thought I’d be reveling in it, creating So Many Things . . . but instead, I feel lost. Incapacitated.

I don’t know what to do with all this time + space + freedom.

So I am writing to you. Because it’s something I want to do, and need to do, and because it’s familiar and I know how to do this.

This is what I try to do when I don’t know what to do. I go back to what I know that I know.

(Well, I actually first flail around a whole bunch. Because I always forget that I know how to navigate these murky waters. Tell me I’m not alone? 😂)

Okay, so once I’ve panicked and thrown some existential temper tantrums, then I manage to remind myself that I’ve been here before, and made it through, and actually have some tricks up my sleeve.

First, I do something. Anything. It doesn't even matter what it is. If it gets me even marginally closer to achieving a goal, be it a professional or creative or personal goal, then I do it. I eat some chocolate. Then I do the next thing. I keep moving, as steadily as I can, perhaps with great stubbornness. If I do this, then sooner or later my paddling feet brush against sand, and I can stand once again.

As for the what of the Do Something . . . I make sure that I do something that I am already familiar with. Something that I know that I know. So right now, I’m feeling a little mixed up with She of the Wild, so I went back to this love letter. I try to send them out weekly, and have gotten out of it in the past month thanks to some big life changes, so I knew that I both wanted + needed to get back to love-lettering. So I showed up here (hello).

Sometimes, however, it’s harder to remember what I know. For example, when I feel lost in my creative writing, or my painting, it’s very difficult for me to jump back in. I feel terrified, like if I did jump, I’d find out the Very Hard Way that there are sharp rocks lurking just beneath the dark water’s surface.

What then? I step even farther back. So far back that it feels kind of silly, like I’m going back to kindergarten. If I can’t find my way into making A Painting, I retreat to my art journal. If that doesn’t work, I just grab some sheets of scrap paper and a crayon and start making lines, or take to the streets with my kids and some sidewalk chalk.

(Pro tip: kids are excellent for helping you find your creative way. They are so brave, and so unattached to the results of their creativity. If you can borrow a niece or nephew or friend’s kid to paint with for an afternoon, do it.)

I go back to what I know, be it penning Very Good Poems or playing with magnetic poetry on my fridge. Or finger painting. Or making hummus. Or reading to my children. Go back to what you know for sure that you know about anything related to your stuckness, and then do it. And keep doing the next thing (or last thing) that you know.

If you keep moving, you will make it through, and some day [probably] soon, you'll find yourself comfortable in what made you uncomfortable today.

What about you? What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Share in the comments, or come chat with us about it in the She of the Wild community. I always am looking for new tools to add to my resistance-and-fear-fighting toolbox, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Update! I recorded a podcast episode with even more ideas on what to do when you don't know what to do. To listen, check out our podcast page, or search "She of the Wild" in iTunes and then download episode #5, or stream it right here, right now:


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