Scholar Hacks: What to do if you get stuck

    1. Try brainstorming again, perhaps through a different format. Draw possible topics. Sing possible topics. Don’t limit yourself (really) on the initial go-round. Ideally you’ve given yourself some time to mess around. Brainstorming is best done if it’s low-stakes, which requires time.
    2. Go outside, if possible. I find that some of my best ideas come when I hit the trails nearby. Something about moving helps me make connections, which I think are some of the most important to the process of scholarship. I also find lush greenery extremely calming and inspirational. I then go home and jot out what I’ve thought while I was away from my tech.
    3. Change scenery. This is, in part, part about movement but also about keeping your mind fresh in its surroundings. Relocating to a different space can change the energy of your process, which sounds new-age or whatever but I think it’s true. I find different forms of inspiration from different spaces. My home office has a massive desk and I control most things, including the music and chair (crucial for my concentration.) My favorite coffee shop has amazing tea and great art but the tables are tiny and sometimes the chatter is unwieldy. My favorite trail has these massive trees that help me “pan out” and make broad connections, but no real way to take notes or write. My couch lets me adjust my posture and hang out with my dog but is not as useful for when I need to really get down to business. You’ll find spots that can help you with different things. Note: do not use movement as a procrastination technique unless you’ve started early. See above.
    4. Talk it out with a trusted friend or peer. This is why we workshop ideas in class. The very process of dialogue is generative in several ways. First, you will have to formulate ideas and translate them into some form of communication which helps you solidify ideas. I find that when I talk things out with my colleagues I can find out what ideas are good and what ideas are kind of crummy. I also say things differently aloud than I do in my head, and that’s been helpful. Second, if your partner is attentive they can help you clarify ideas by asking questions about your project. This is one of my favorite tactics, but requires a willing person and some time.
    5. Change mediums. If you were working on something with a screen, try writing old school. If you were working on paper, try using a whiteboard (in the library or union, or purchase one for under $10.) Different technologies have different affordances and limitations as well as different experiences. Use what’s useful and try something different when you get stuck.
    6.  Leave it alone. But schedule a time to come back to it. Put it in your calendar and/or write a sticky note, and then go think about something else.
    7. Just try something. Part of the process of learning and thinking is facing potential dead-ends. This is why giving yourself time to change/pivot is important. Even if it’s not all the way “right” or “true,” start somewhere and let yourself try an idea, concept, or paragraph out.





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