Unstuck in Action: Unsticking the creative mind

There’s been much ado in the press lately about creativity, spurred by Jonah Lerher’s book “Imagine,” which tells us that we all can be inventive. But some of us, like Kate Arends, spend almost all their waking hours creating. And on occasion, they get stuck too—just like the rest of us.

Name: Kate Arends

Age: 28

Location: Minneapolis

Day job: A graphic designer, Kate was one of the first to join Cue, a five-year-old brand design firm.

Blogging: When the recession hit in 2009, Kate started Wit & Delight as a way to stay motivated and grow creatively. “I’m drawn to visual play and quirkiness, so I worked to create a voice for myself. It’s evolved as I’ve evolved. Every month I have 150,000 visits. I also have 14,000 subscribers to the Tumblr blog and 800,000 followers on Pinterest.”

Freelance work: Includes working with local boutiques and photographers.

And when she’s not working… “Most of my free time is spent over coffee and beer talking about ideas with creative people.” And running. “It’s a great psychology tool for active people with active minds.”

How did you hear about the Unstuck app?
“A coworker sent it to me. He said, ‘This is right up your alley.’ I’ve done a lot soul searching in past year. I got a divorce after a short period of time of being married. That blows up your life. Discovering Unstuck was like finding something you’ve been looking for but didn’t know existed.”

What did you find in Unstuck?
“For creative people, we get wrapped up in our work and lives and can’t pull back and get to the fundamentals. There is insecurity and self-doubt in being a creative person, and an insane drive that can be paralyzing. In a smart, lighthearted way, the app says ‘you’re like everyone else and there is a way to work through it.’”

How do you know when you’re stuck?
“I feel anxious and start behaving impulsively. I fix everything else around the problem. It’s taken a long time to realize I am stuck. It’s not fun to admit you’re at a roadblock.”

How do you get unstuck?
“Journaling. Every night I have a calendar with enough to write a few sentences about what I realized today. It doesn’t have to be profound. On my iPad I write with AI writer. Often it’s ranting, like a good cry, but you don’t find yourself in an actionable place. That’s not bad, but some things require action, so I read Getting Things Done. And I tell myself that it’s okay if you can’t figure it out now. In time you’ll know the answer. Admitting you’re at a roadblock allows you to get out of it, but it’s not getting the answer on a silver platter.”

What’s it like to get unstuck?
“It’s like a parting of the clouds. Once things become cleared it’s easy for me to take action. I can decide what to do with clarity. What you decide is just as important as knowing why you’re stuck.”

How have you use the Unstuck app?
“I wanted to assess why I was having a hard time managing my freelance projects—getting motivated to respond to emails in a timely manner, getting the pieces together to run an efficient business. I knew I needed those things, but couldn’t get myself to keep a schedule.” 

How did the app diagnose your moment?
“Avoider. It was frank but it didn’t scare me away. It helped me accept what I was doing so I could shake that off and move forward. So I began to implement a rule: Just address the hot emails and schedule time later for the other ones. It’s worked really well.”

If you could change one thing about Unstuck, it would be:
“A shorter version. I would love something for simpler problems. Should I go out for drinks with this person? Should I accept that freelance project? If there were an express version, I think that would be a nice complement.”

If you would like to be interviewed for the Unstuck in Action series, contact us at ideas@unstuck.com.

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