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When I was in college I had to write a history paper about Chartism (British political reform movement 1838-1848). British history and literature are among my favorite subjects but I could not generate any enthusiasm for this topic. In fact, every time I sat down to try to write the thing my brain seized up and I couldn’t do it. I did the research but I could not bring myself to write the paper. I was completely blocked.

I went to see the professor to ask for a different topic…anything… please?! But no, it was Chartism or nothing. And nothing meant an “F” on the paper. He agreed to give me more time, but as it was the end of term it came down to an extra week.

I panicked. I tried and tried to write the thing, but got nowhere. Term ended. Finally I got a call from the Teaching Assistant who said, “bring the paper to me tomorrow or I’ll have to give you a failing grade.”


The only thing I remember about actually forcing myself to sit down and write something (anything!) about Chartism is that there was a vase of yellow tulips on the table. Somehow I choked out the requisite ten pages, turned it in with a shudder, and never gave the Chartists a backwards glance.

I suppose it was the imminent threat of a bad grade that finally broke through the writer’s block and enabled me to get the paper done.

I’m happy to say that since then I’ve rarely encountered projects that were so difficult. I can usually muster the motivation to get things done, even things I don’t love doing. I use all the usual tricks: break it into small parts, give myself a treat for finishing, etc.

But now, out of nowhere, here it is again. That thing. Total paralysis in the face of a project that I need to complete: the re-do of my website.

I don’t get it. It sounds like such a “no big deal” kind of thing. Much less painful than The Chartists. But none of the usual tricks for tackling hard projects are working. So what the heck is going on?

I hope I can discover soon what this block is about and how to overcome it. If not, I may need someone to rescue me with a vase of yellow tulips and a phone call threatening me with a bad outcome. Other ideas sincerely appreciated of course!

maybe daffodils would work?

maybe daffodils would work?