Derek Tillotson

The rut in which one is stuck

Recently, I felt like I was in a creative rut. Since my previous post about the major change at work, I’ve found myself having a difficult time sitting down and focusing. Focusing on reading had been difficult. Focusing on writing had been difficult. Even things like prayer, doodling, and playing video games have made me feel as if I have some sort of block. Oddly enough, the only thing that seemed to excite me was playing mahjong (a game I would highly recommend to anyone–start with Sichuan Bloody Rules or Hong Kong Old Style).

For whatever reason, playing mahjong online helped sift through some of this rut. I get in these ruts from time to time, usually for no discernable reason. But this one has fallen in a very coincidental time. And as I’m finally able to sit down and work through the thoughts in my brain, it gives me a chance to reflect on what I do when I’m stuck in a rut.

1) Try a bunch of things. Just as mahjong has been the thing that has felt somewhat inspiring this time around, other times I’ve gotten out of a rut by reading, taking daily walks, spending time with friends. Eventually, I start to find something that grabs me and I stick with it for a bit.

2) Do nothing. One of the things I’ve realized over the past couple years is that people are scared to death over the concept of boredom. If you tell someone they have to spend a day without their phone, they freak out a bit. If you were to ask someone to just sit in a room with no objects other than a chair and lighting, they’ll think you’re crazy. But boredom has the potential to stimulate. And when you have nothing else available, you’re forced to get creative. That’s how great ideas happen.

3) Seek out new opportunities. I haven’t really done much in the job search for about a year. That is, by far, the longest streak I’ve had. That said, it’s not because I’ve been blissfully happy with work–I’m a firm believer that one should be constantly sending out feelers, even if you have no plans to leave your current position. But between the recent changes at work, work-from-home being commonplace, and the graduate certificate I spent around 6 months earning, I found myself not very engaged on that front. Perhaps it’s time to re-enter the fray. A potential change of scenery is often appealing.

What has really become apparent to me, and what I now believe is becoming a likely factor in this current rut, is that I find myself slowly crawling back toward social media and adjacent things. Staring at the LinkedIn timeline accomplishes absolutely nothing beneficial. Hanging out in a Discord chat with a bunch of people I’ve never met in person is little different than blasting tweets at a bunch of people I’ve never met (I’ve seen a lot of hardcore Discord users deny that the platform is social media, I will strongly argue that it is). Even things like dating apps, online gaming, and browsing Reddit and news websites are all areas that give me that same feeling that convinced me to get off social media, a decision I would encourage anyone to try.

In this case, I think that is the key to stating out of this rut. I should get back to applying for different jobs. I should change up my routine. I should allow myself to get bored more often. But I also need to be less online in a world that is only getting more. The answer is not going offline entirely, but the first step is cutting out the things that definitely add no value, then setting parameters on how I use the rest of it.