The Art of Standstills


We all know the feeling: Sometimes, things just don’t seem to come through. No matter how much effort or dedication we invest, we feel gridlocked. Maybe you have been practicing a new skill intensively or been trying to seal a deal for months. Maybe your creative project doesn’t develop any further or your career slowed down although you’ve been spending every minute on future projects. What happened to the glorious moments when things just flowed effortlessly and you could enjoy obvious progress?

To quit or not to quit?

In down-times like this, we are often tempted to quit, throw in the towel, and seek new projects. But by doing so, we might give away a huge leap that is about to come – because plateaus are like the calm before the storm, they are the real moment of development.

Back in the day, my trainer kept telling me to rest well after a hard workout. Once the muscles were stimulated, they needed time to recover. It is the principle of overcompensation: Without a period of rest, there is no growth. The same happens in creative or professional development. Progress can only happen when we allow our investment to settle. Bringing our bodies, brains, contacts, or careers to the next level takes time for adapting and preparing for the new state. If you are trying to shift things fundamentally, it might take longer than you expect or wish for.

Good contacts take time

Analyzing my last ten years of acquiring new clients – agents, theatres, publishers, promoters, … – I found out they all had one thing in common: From the initial moment of getting in touch to actually sign the contract, it took every impulse at least two years to develop. During this time, it still required at least five to six interactions like personal meetings, emails, Christmas cards, parties, or else. In some cases, I gave up pushing for a client after three or four contacts, thinking it was not worth the effort. When I unintentionally hit interaction #5 or #6, I was suddenly offered a job. On average, it just needed about 2 years of plateaus for both sides to develop confidence and trust in each other.

Creative projects, too!

Creative projects run in a similar way. Sometimes, we just need to put the pencil aside, let it settle and work in the back of our minds. New ideas might hit you promptly, but they still take time to develop.

So, the next time you hit a frustrating standstill, make sure to remind yourself that this could be the last moment before thriving again and making your goal reality. Or as author Gail McMeekin said: Creativity demands that you trust and stay on the path, despite any obstacles. The good news is that you can.”


What are your experiences? Leave me a note! I want to find out about you!

… and as always: Stay positive and focused!