What To Do When You’re Stuck, Or: My Massive Melodramatic Mid-March Meltdown

Enter Stephen…




I’m trying to write another article. Really I am. But it’s not going well.

Perhaps I should riffle through the potential list of dating problems.

Quick tips for body language? Sex advice? The friend-zone. Commitment issues. How to get him to wear Calvin Klein briefs instead of his tatty old boxers with the worn-out elastic waistband?

Those are all options.

But haven’t they read enough of those things? I want to say something original, maybe the idea just isn’t there yet. Does that mean I can quit for a week? It’s been nearly 60 blogs in a row anyway right? No, of course I can’t quit. But then what do I do…?!

This is meltdown territory. Not a place you want to stay in too long. Just write something and be done with it. 98% of the time that’s the answer.

But sometimes it’s better not to just phone it in.

Here’s how my week usually goes when I try to come up with blog ideas.

It all begins with an ‘itch’. Something that niggles and bugs me, until I scratch it out on virtual paper, pulling sentences from my brain and organizing my thoughts into handy lists, until I have enough material hammered out from my keyboard to hit the “post” button on WordPress.

Some weeks it flows like a river.

The idea clicks in my mind around Friday and I know I have a blog post.

The rest of the week is easy sleeping now that all I have to do is plonk myself down in front of my laptop, draw one gulp of steaming hot builder’s tea from my KitKat mug, and throw out the thoughts bubbling in my mind for the last few days onto a Word Document. A few polishes later it’s ready to go.

Those are the good weeks.

Other weeks it’s me and the blank page going to war.

My laptop and I can feel the tension; I sit in my office chair, my muscles tight and heavy, as though someone packed wet sand into my shoulders, all furrow-browed and stiff as I hold my breath to draw first blood on the keyboard.

I type the first sentence…


Barely a scratch.

Have I forgotten how to do this?! 

I try another approach. Start in the middle, that usually works. Get straight to meat. But sometimes nothing sticks, it just doesn’t feel smooth. I write a list of potential topics and hate all of them. Is this as good as it gets? If I can’t think of anything this week, what about the next week, and the next week…does it just get worse from here?!

Now you have a dilemma on your hands: Do you sit waiting for the golden apple that never appears, or do you ship your half-baked, unpolished ideas and promise yourself you’ll do better next time?

Sometimes the latter is the answer.

Get in, get out. Hope for better next round. At least you have the satisfaction that you showed up and did the work.

But maybe you’re being soft. Maybe the good idea is still out there, but you’re just not reaching far enough, not tunneling through enough mud to find the 10-pound ruby buried under the hard clumps of earth.

In those moments, you have to take unorthodox solutions to get through your writing block and dig further.

Here are 5 ways I sharpen the shovel to dig out the hidden gems:

1. Read More

Right now you’re an unlit match, and you need to catch fire.

One great source of fuel to light that spark is books, articles, blogs, twitter, online forums, comments from old posts.

I grab a pile of books from the shelf and fall onto my bed. I’m scanning through them, grabbing chapters with intriguing titles and swallowing random pages like I’m in some frenzied biblio-buffet.

What I’m looking for, I don’t really know.

On good days I might find a few things. Things like:

  • A difficult concept I can clarify
  • An annoying argument I can fight against
  • An issue I feel I have a unique take on
  • A problem I never considered

These are usually fuel enough to get me feeling enthusiastic about a subject (which for me is the predicate of all inspiration).

I’m just looking for something I can feel strongly about. Something that will dare me to scratch that itch.

2. Search For New, Inspiring Questions

I notice when i’m stuck that it’s usually because I’m asking boring questions: “What else do people want to read?” “What haven’t I written about?” “What is next on the list?”

These questions can help you start, but they also lead to playing it safe, losing your edge, being the same as everyone else.

Sometimes new questions are much better:

“What am I angry about?”
“What do I strongly believe that other people don’t say enough?”
“What upset me about the world this week?”
“What are the hardest struggles in my life?”
“What about love makes me unhappy?”
“What are the best things I notice about the writers, thinkers, movie directors, and friends I admire?”
“What made life worth living this week?”
“How did I solve the worst relationship problem I ever experienced?”
“How did I recover from the obsession of unrequited love?”

3. Bet On Your Own Prejudices

If it upsets me, it will upset them.

If it’s important to me, it’s important to my readers.

A risky strategy. There’s always a bunch of people who, when they see your guts spilled across the page, won’t like what they see.

Those casual readers preferred the sanitised version of you, the carbon copy, the ‘safe’ guy who wrote the regular articles you’ll find in every other glossy magazine.

But maybe you don’t need to win everyone over.

Maybe once in a while you throw your heart out, and hope people recognise themselves in it. If in doubt, just run with your emotions and personal gripes and see where they take you.

4. Make It For Yourself

Like anyone who writes to be read, I am invariably greedy. I want every reader to be a fan of everything.

But they won’t be.

I’ve had plenty of comments that start: “I usually love your posts, but I didn’t like this one…”

Maybe my subject offends them. Maybe my tone is harsh, patronising, or they felt judged and called out by the language I used.

I’ll be self-critical and defend myself. But after that, maybe we’ll agree to disagree. No biggie. Maybe I’ll win them back next time.

But if I write posts hoping to win friends every single time, I become diluted orange squash. The work quenches a thirst, but leaves no taste worth writing home about.

Write to be read by others, but write for yourself first.

It makes life so much easier when you change your criteria from pleasing 1000 people to pleasing just one.

5. If In Doubt, Find A Way To Make It Fun

You only did it for fun in the first place.

If it’s not fun, it’s just like any other job. If it’s not fun, there are plenty of other jobs more lucrative that are also uninspiring.

When you don’t know what to say, just excite yourself again:

What would I teach if I were having fun?
What would I write if I wanted to entertain myself?
How can I surprise myself in this piece of work?

Make it fun, make it fun.

That’s my new mantra. Even for the most gruelling, miserable, difficult deadlines. When you’re blocked and stifled and don’t know where your pen should go next, just allow that gentle reminder to creep in: Make it fun again.

At least then, even when you don’t always know quite what you’re doing, you remember why you’re doing it.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

Stephen Hussey helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

To Follow Steve On Twitter For More Updates Click Here

(Photo: Sebastien Wiertz)

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31 Replies to “What To Do When You’re Stuck, Or: My Massive Melodramatic Mid-March Meltdown”

  • “The cure for writer’s cramp is writer’s block.”
    ~ Inigo DeLeon

    :) Just a little re-frame. Sometimes we need days/weeks for reflection in order to see where we have been, and figure out where we want to go. When I want to write about something, I find a quote or phrase to start with that sets the theme. Then, I freewrite, write again, polish, and write again… until it makes sense. I do like the idea of making it fun again! We all get blocked sometimes. I know sometimes it helps me if I think that nobody else will be reading it at first. Maybe it is a bit of stage fright setting in? Either way, I hope you find something fun, that makes you itch, for next week! :) We will be here.


    P.s. I find that ranting about things with my sister sometimes helps to spark something inside of me. :)

    1. How about age old/traditional dating vs. The new “hook up” culture. Where is the balance? Thoughts on things like asking the father for your lady’s hand in marriage, actually picking up the phone to call someone to make a date? Writing letters? Paying on dates?

        1. Actually, i would be interested in the ‘hook up culture trap’ advice as well. I know that matt has said that he doesn’t believe in online dating and focuses on face to face opportunity making, and with great success, but many use the online medium for a reason…. And most online sites end up as hook up sites, or a guy is on both dating and hook up sites simultaneously. Its both frustrating and confusing.

    2. I love that quotation, Arianna!

      And I too use the sister-rant method ;). Even if the result is just that I find myself thinking I should be writing, not ranting! Gotta do what works… :)

  • I for one, prefer the raw unedited articles to the watered down, glossed over ones usually found in every magazine out there. Great tips there Stephen!

    I had a topic in mind actually… what’s your take on Multicultural relationships/marriages? Do you think being with someone from a different culture is adding a complicated unnecessary element to one’s life, or do you think it’s a positive enriching element..?
    Do you think a successful multicultural union depends on one’s own personality and values when it comes to being open to the idea of multicultural relationships or is it only possible for someone who has been exposed to a particular culture over an extended period of time and thus has a deep understanding of it?

    I live in quite a multicultural environment and don’t personally see it as a big deal but I wonder if that makes me open minded or just plain naive… considering your vast experience in dealing with relationships and their nuances I would really appreciate your input :)

    Thank u!

    1. I’m also interested in hearing more opinions on multicultural relationships – and would like to share ideas on the benefits of it. My guy is Asian, and we’ve been together a few years. I’m interested in the challenges we’ll be facing, and keep reading blogs of other people in multicultural relationships (Japanese, Korean, Chinese).

      As two people coming from a different background, it becomes crucial to communicate efficiently and put effort in understanding the other culture: going to their country, meeting their friends, learning the language, even working there.

      Nothing can be left on “oh he knows it”, everything from the division of house chores to the meaning of some actions has to be discussed: “why do you carry my bag?” “why do you have male friends?”. The good thing is that it really makes us think through our motives and articulate our inner needs and fears, instead of wallowing on “why did he do this, or didn’t do this, what does this mean” -questions, that same culture people just can’t get around to asking. It makes the relationship have lots of freedom and be very relaxed.
      The occasional long-distance periods and frequent travel to see relatives keep it fresh, too ;)

  • A couple of months ago I was dumped, without actually being dumped.

    We were officially a couple (he called me his girlfriend, he was my boyfriend and we were a couple for a couple of months)

    I felt him start to pull away and I gave him some space and got on with my own thing.

    But instead of

    * a meet up
    * a phone call
    * a text
    * even an email!

    I just never heard from him again.

    And I didn’t reach out to him. Something was very ‘off’ and I just wanted to cling onto my dignity.

    Now I don’t want to make this about my story, but I know that at the time there were some thoughts that went through my mind about this that might be going through other women’s head’s who are experiencing this right now. Such as…

    * I wasn’t even worth a phone call/text/email?
    * Did I mean so little?
    * If he didn’t fancy me anymore, it might not have been a nice thing to accept, but I’d get over it. But to just ignore me signifies a total lack of respect – which hurts even more!
    * What kind of person does that?
    * What did I do?

    Later on I realised, that none of that mattered. That at the end of the day I would need to take stock of where I may have went wrong and put it towards experience.

    Also, that he had 2 choices.

    * I could tell her that I don’t want to be with her anymore


    * Ignore her and let her wonder what went wrong / avoid the uncomfortable conversation altogether

    His choice told me everything I needed to know about him, which helped me to get over him! :D

    I sincerely wish him the best of luck in love and wish him the absolute best.

    But I also wish myself the best.

    To help women who are going through this painful ‘style’ of break up – would it be possible to do a little blog on it? Something that will really uplift them? To help them realise that this was the best thing that could have happened, because there are so many more men out there!

    Because I know for a fact that to be just left to figure it all out, is a VERY different kind of pain to a ‘normal’ break up, where they actually tell you through one form or another. When someone respects you enough to tell you, you can get closure.

    Thankfully my experience was where I’d only been his girlfriend for a couple of months, but I know there are some people this has happened to after being together for years.

    It’d be great for them to know how to give themselves closure instead of needing it from the other person.


    1. Lynn, I can totally relate to your story. The thought process that leads through the pain and frustration to the eventual result of enlightenment and emancipation–brilliant ending! :)

  • Well done Stephen, I felt you took a page from my life, word for word, (very well written) stream of conciseness almost. I interview celebrities then have the task to make their neuroses glamorous after receiving a forbidden list of what I CANNOT ask them… brutal.

    Keep up the great work and when in doubt do a shot of tequila, haaaa! I hope to attend Matt’s show in LA coming soon :)

  • We all deserve to have a meltdown or funk at some time. I think March is a good a time as any, only just coming into the nicer Spring weather. I can’t believe you’ve produced so many great blog pieces one after the other for the last year.
    I personally think the problem of exiting a relationship at any point, be it after two dates or two years, is a deperately hard thing to do in an elegant, high value woman way. One partner, especially followers of the Hussey Way who are going to be primed and more self-aware, might decide they are not suited or fun or whatever but the other might feel too invested even if they know deep down its not right. Or they might decide the sex is too good and the rest can just be less than perfect. This leads to ignoring, stalking, constant texting and on and on. All of it undignified and we don’t all want to resort to the lengths of Gone Girl. There must be an easier way. You give lots of advice on attracting and getting the guy but we risk being stuck with the wrong guy. I don’t know how you’d advise such a dilemma although you do advise on how to slow things down and be high value in the book.
    Wouldnt it be boring pleasing all of the people all the time. One notices that about people who are passionate about something in their life. We had a talk and display from a lady in her eighties yesterday on her enormous stamp collection. She has taken it to 450 schools and I was utterly taken aback by her passion for her life long collection. She suddenly became one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met, just on account of her passion. We live in an age of increasing social isolation which directly affects the health and longevity of life. I believe if we are passionate about something, whatever, however personal to us that may be. And especially if we are then able to share it with other people, she was jumping on trains all over the place, then we become more fascinating and interesting to other people and they will be attracted and want to be around us. I was never into stamps but she had a collection of the late Princess of Wales and we bonded over our admiration of her and our sense of loss.
    Keep going Steve, I’m drinking too much tea as well, maybe you need me on speed dial. Don’t answer that, I was joking, I don’t think you need my opinion for a minute, lol.
    Kathryn xx

  • i just felt the same way ;) your melodramatic meltdown feeling is an extension of my pointless reply to some emails…maybe, even Shakespeare experienced such as this in his time….i wonder what he did to lit the fire again? or Mark Twain? -i don’t know…only passionate writers or atleast people who’s inlove with “words” understands ;) but the best thing here? you turned the worst feeling into something better :) one of your hidden strength…i liked that lines ” write to be read by others, but write for yourself first…instead of pleasing 1000, do it for one.” that was catchy ;) i learned this thing before and it’s good to be reminded like it’s a new idea again…it made this whole article very sexy…or i mean, the writer (wink, wink)

  • the only thing that I can say is THANK YOU . I’ll post this on my FB page . My friends must read your articles .

    THANK YOU STEPHEN :* :* :*

  • For starters, I could suggest loads of topics like the best way to go though the awkward moment of meeting his parents, why being alone it’s not always a bad idea, how to bring your sexual fantasies up, how to share your passions with your partner, how to avoid becoming in his “mum” in a relationship, etcetera. But I bet that you have plenty of better ones.

    I could also said that you’re going through a phase and that the inspiration would eventually come. But we both know that you’re talented enough to write about infinite subjects just for act writing. The issue here is that you need more. You need something that bewitched you, something that passionate you… Something that gets really inside your brain and gets stuck in there allowing you to do nothing else but thinking about it, researching about it and examining every corner and angle of it until you master it.

    If you want true, endless and overwhelming inspiration what you have to do is to fall in love.

    PS.- I wish my English would be better so I could express what I mean… Sorry about that.

  • I need help! I know this is not the place to ask but anyways I am going to try (sorry Stephen for not commenting on your article). My question is: What is expected of you when an ex boyfriend´s mom dies. I am paralyced, I finished the relationship (I broked his heart) and I haven´t talk to the guy for over a year (we where together for 4 years), still all his friends contacted me asking me to call him or to do something. I dont know how to proceed, I dont want to hurt him by doing something stupid. Advice? Anyone ? PLEASE !

    1. Hey Franzi. I think a year has been enough time to let things settle. I think if you were to send a text message/facebook email message extending your condolences to him and his family, without asking any questions or putting pressure on him to reply, then it would come across exactly how it’s meant to. A message of condolence and care. Hope that helps? xx

    2. I agree with Lynn. One year is a long time to be parted so you don’t need to be there for him in an active matter. But maybe choose a more personal way to communicate like a letter. Hope that helps.

  • I usually never write but you got to me though this one… had the same problem this week! Nice sugestions of reading material pisitive psychology, resilience and the strength that requires to overcome crappie beginnings of life… you didn’t add talking to people even if they don’t do what you do… .. that helps as well… everyone has something thatinspires them… maybe that could inspire you too… love your (and your brother) imput on life… always puts me in perspective. .. greetings from Argentina

  • Absolutely love your writing style Stephen! Totally relate to those moments of angst when “pulling sentences from one’s brain” doesn’t want to manifest. The tortured artist, the writer with a plethora of knowledge yet no knowledgable way to utilize it…then boom! Something happens and the writer’s block is cured! Hopefully right? Haha, right!

    Your use of vivid imagery is inspiring, thank you so much for sharing!

  • That’s right, Stephen. Write for yourself first always. You’re the one that’s going to read it the most. (Though I read your posts lots, even going back to that August Boyhood post!) And your name is on it. You have to live with it.

    That said, we’re not that critical. I have to say I’ve never thought whether what you’ve written dovetails with what another has written. You’re Stephen and they’re them. I come here for a reason. So keep writing in your unique voice, even topics that are out there. Your way of discussing it will be different.

    And we’ll be here. :-)

  • Haha well done Stephen! Yes I’ am at a mid-match-meltdown myself. So perfect article for me! Wouldn’t have read it if it wouldn’t have caught my eye. :-) I was definitely not in a mood for dating advice. Now I go and get my stuff done. Can hardly go wrong with these percentage.

  • Hi Stephen,

    Yesterday I read your March madness article, and I wanted to let you know that it helped with me with my own creative block this week. You just seem to have perfect timing on writing topics each week.

    My usual go to cure for writer’s block is taking a stroll in my favourite area of town for the afternoon. While walking down the avenue passing all the shops, restaurants, parks, I would keep an open mind because you never know know what will inspire you. Sometimes it is the small things that trigger the biggest inspirations.

    I have a few suggestions that might work for future topics like… What would be the best approach to flirt with men on Twitter, Facebook, and/or social media? How did to you change your passion for writing into a career? Spring Fever? Does the spring weather really affect on us when looking for love?

    Thanks Stephen, and have a lovely week.


    1. Glad someone else thinks to take a break and get out of your head for a moment to go see the world around them since it can inspire in ways you never thought possible.

  • Hi Stephen,

    This comment comes a little late … because, well, I wasn’t quite sure if I should/really wanted to post it. I’m usually the one who reads in quiet, appreciates, maybe shares with a friend, and that’s it. But today, I felt like I wanted to try something new and let you in on my thoughts, because I really absolutely love the development of your blog posts, how they’ve been getting more and more personal over time. Laying open your weaknesses like this in public requires a really strong personality. And I admire you for taking that leap.

    Actually, one of the many things that initially made (and still make!) me sooo addicted to Matt’s videos was exactly that personal aspect: that it’s not about putting up a show, promoting himself and giving some run-of-the-mill advice, but that you can tell that he has made it his life’s mission to make a difference in people’s lives. And I’m thrilled to now get that same feeling more and more pronounced from your blog posts as well.
    I love the fact that it feels like you give us a chance to get to know you better through your articles – WHILE still giving relevant advice, of course (that part hasn’t changed – it’s just the “packaging”, if you will, that has become more compelling). Your articles are entertaining, insightful and clearly structured – all in all a fun read. And it feels like they’re coming from a genuine and well grounded place, which in my opinion sets you Husseys apart from many other (wannabe) coaches out there. So, keep it up! And don’t beat yourself up too much if things don’t go as you’d like them to. Life is never a straight line, it’s more of a series of ups and downs.

    To finish off this comment (which has become waaaay longer than I intended for it to be …), let me just say that even though I’m not a writer, and quite frankly have never aspired to become one, I still find your thoughts laid out in this post really interesting and applicable to many other situation in life where you somehow feel stuck.

    I’m so looking forward to seeing you all in San Diego in August!

    Warm regards from Germany,

    1. Thank you so much Anita – I’m really glad you commented and didn’t read in quiet on this occasion! Really means a lot to hear that. I’ve definitely strived to be more raw and vulnerable over time, but it’s always a challenge! I truly appreciate the encouragement.

      Stephen x

  • I am using this advice, thanks. And you are so buying a copy of my book when it’s finished Steve. Cheers love! X

  • I LOVE THIS! Happythankyoumoreplease. :) I love the list of questions (reminds me of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, where the hosts all have to say what’s making them happy right now) and the diluted orange squash of overpleasingness–that will stick with me. Good to have an image in mind when I’m preparing for battle with the page, the monkeys, the judgment of the general public.

    Also maybe we all need this: http://whiskeyriversoap.com/products/soap-for-writers-block. I came upon that on my new favourite writing blog: Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing). Which I got hooked on by one of those serendipity things where I randomly saw this post, http://chrisbrecheen.blogspot.ca/2012/04/morning-writing-lessons-of-brande.html, about a book that this guy swears by–a book which I had just randomly picked up at a used book store, having never heard of it before. The world is weird…

    Stephen, based on your recent posts, I trust your mojo is back in form. But we appreciate that it wasn’t for a wee bit, so you could write this post :)

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