Feeling Stuck

standstill 500

Question: I’m feeling stuck and I can’t move forward.

Get some mentoring, because there are a number of reasons why you could be stuck. Proper diagnosis is essential to a successful cure. Mostly what you need are decisions so you can reach some sort of closure, even if that closure is not ideal.

A lot of of the time, stuckness is not your fault. You’ll know the difference – if you have the facts and just can’t get started, that’s ordinary writer’s block. Just keep plodding and eventually a way will open up. If you’ve already tried this and you’re still spinning your wheels for weeks on end, maybe things keep changing or people keep giving you totally different stories about the same thing, then the problem is organizational, not personal.

Organizational reasons for stuckness could be:

  • People can’t agree. Sometimes individuals have long-standing friction with other people on the team, or maybe they just lack motivation.
  • People don’t talk. Sometimes entire departments don’t communicate. Meetings vanish, or key people aren’t at them.
  • Opposing directives. One group might be told to get a product out no matter what, by hook or by crook, while other groups are told not to miss compliance issues. This is like a cart with horses all pulling different directions.
  • People don’t have time. In today’s world, everyone has too many priorities and managers are even more slammed than their teams. Everyone gets really good at shoving tasks onto someone else’s plate, usually someone of perceived lower rank within the organization. Warning: If you get dumped on from all sides and no one stands up for you, this means that YOU are at the bottom, not a good place to be!
  • Deadlines are unrealistic. “You can’t make a well-done burger in 2 minutes”, but you can put it on a flowchart that way and never notice the error.

R&D takes a certain amount of time, no matter what the TED talks say. Efficiency gains tend to be incremental, rather than doubling overnight. If you try to rush it, you don’t get a faster product. You get a hot mess. If this happens, your documentation will be a part of this larger hot mess and will reflect the overall chaos without in any way being a cause of same.

Tech writers get anxiety when they’re not producing any output. However, in some of these rapid development scenarios the teams themselves know that things are crazy and they won’t expect much out of you. Try making a quick Powerpoint as a memorandum of understanding to capture the minute-by-minute changes. No one will confuse that with a final document, and you can refresh it in under and hour.

Powerpoint scratch files can’t carry you forever, though. Sometimes the project drags on against all expectations and you have no more rabbits to pull out of the hat. If you can’t get mentoring at this point, just sit back and wait for people to come to you. Don’t try to fix anything or be proactive. Admit that you are powerless over the situation and let go of attachment to outcomes. Meditate on the Buddha, and do side jobs for other departments that have their shit together, so you can build up some goodwill.

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