Why Our Best Work Happens When We Are Stuck

People close to me are dreaming big dreams. One friend desires to pursue a deeper relationship with someone he is seeing, but that person is moving away to a promising career. Another is thinking of quitting her successful corporate job to stay at home with her kids, but she isn’t quite sure if God is really directing her. My husband is trying to build a database which will ultimately help provide aid to orphans in an entire country, but few people want to commit to help with a nonprofit, no-end-in-site project. These dreamers want to live wonderful stories. Each of these people have no idea how to get to the beautiful ending.

I gave my son a book for Christmas one year entitled Big Plans I Say by Bob Shea and Lane Smith. The main character, an imaginative boy stimageuck in timeout at a school desk schemes of the great things he will do with his mynah bird sidekick. Despite his present status as class delinquent, he declares his dreams: build a city, become president, go to the moon.

imageThe boy repeats his mantra “Big plans I say” with such authority and gusto, we can’t help but root for his big plans to become reality. As readers, we know he can get there because we have hope for him. (Break it down, Whitney: “I believe the children are our future….”)

Wendell Berry (born 1934) speaks to this better than anyone I know in his poem The Real Work.

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer
know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know
which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled in not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Here are two reasons why being stuck is good :

1. I see the gift of a challenge as I thank God for it. A little self-imposed reverse psychology. I begin to see hope when I see it in a redeemed light. Even if I fail at a task, I am learning for the next try. That is a gift.

2. It propels me downstream. One tiny step each day adds up to one giant leap forward. For example, 10 minutes a day of writing for 365 days is 3,650 minutes or 60 hours of writing. One small move propels me forward and tomorrow I will be more likely to repeat the habit.

When you are stuck, you are shaking hands with the best work you will ever do.

Like the class troublemaker or my friends dreaming big dreams, we are staring at the dammed up river together, wondering if this could be our next victory.

What is your stream and what is impeding it? What is one tiny move you can make today toward your big plan?

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June 1, 2015