Un-sticking Yourself, When Stuck

Sometimes, when you’re trying to write, paint, write a song or record and produce music (or during thousands of other creative pursuits) you’re going to get stuck.  You’re going to grind to an utter halt, without a clue about how to move forward.  It’s like being in quicksand without a rope to cling to.  That feeling can be very frustrating and very defeating.  It might even lead you to abandon the work, or even abandon your art.  That seems like quite a high price to pay, just because you can’t come up with the next move or a fresh idea.

Here are some solutions:  The first one is available as an iPhone and Android app, as well as on paper, as a deck of physical cards.  It was co-created by Brian Eno, the famous record producer and so it lends itself well to music making.  It’s the “Oblique Strategies” deck.

Oblique Strategies Home

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-oblique-strategies/id638528266?mt=8  The app is free.

Whenever you get stuck, open the app and select a “card” at random.

Oblique Strategies

This deck is guaranteed to get you thinking creatively again.  The comments often don’t make sense, until you stop and think.  Then the solution comes into your mind, usually more quickly than you expect.



Each card contains a phrase or cryptic remark which can be used to break a deadlock or dilemma situation. Some are specific to music composition; others are more general. Examples include:

  • Use an old idea.
  • State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
  • Only one element of each kind.
  • What would your closest friend do?
  • What to increase?  What to reduce?
  • Are there sections?  Consider transitions.
  • Try faking it!
  • Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
  • Ask your body.
  • Work at a different speed.

Here’s an online version for your browser:  http://oblicard.com/

Oblique Web

The other deck I use, which is also available as an iPhone App and paper deck (and maybe on Android – I didn’t check), is Roger van Oech’s Creative Whack Pack (I think the official paper version is called the Innovative Whack Pack – very confusing).

Whack Pack



I’ve used the paper version since around 2000.  I keep forgetting where I put it, so loading it to my iPhone tonight was a good thing.  This is another ideation prod.  It poses a question, albeit in perhaps a more structured way than the Oblique Strategies that gets you thinking again.

Here is an example of how the cards are grouped:

Whack Pack Structure

Vitamins for your creative muscles.


Nine Ways Coastal

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: https://michaeltopic.wordpress.com/. There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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4 Responses to Un-sticking Yourself, When Stuck

  1. KraftedKhaos says:

    I often get stuck when trying to write, and one thing that I have found that helps me almost without fail is to just write about *something*. If I sit around and wait to write until the perfect idea comes to me, I end up staring at a blank page for hours, but if I just start writing about almost anything, sometimes my original subject takes on life, but more often than not, I’m dissatisfied with what I’ve written, but it gives me an idea or direction to try again. Sometimes I’ll do this once and get it, other times it may take five or more tries until something ‘clicks’ and the words just flow.

  2. Kirsten says:

    I made a deck like this for myself in the early 80s. On coloured index cards; I still remember the feel of them and taking them out when I felt paralysed. This doesn’t happen to me much now, too many ideas; insufficient time and resources instead, lol.
    And that has its own dynamic. What works for me atm is to keep several projects going at once, and moving on to another if one feels stuck.
    Another idea, when I can’t find the words, is to think about images. Google Image is great; it always broadens my feel for an idea.

    • Those are fantastic suggestions! Thank you so much for sharing them. I think I lean more to the lack of time and resources side, than the getting stuck side, like you, but even with all these projects and ideas, sometimes fatigue sets in and you need a jolt to the creativity. Or at least I find I do. I appreciate you taking the time to write your thoughts. Thank you again.

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