If you love sweaty hands, well, I have a story for you.
The other night I watched a documentary called The Dawn Wall. If you haven’t seen it, it’s mostly about a couple of guys who spend months trying to figure out how to climb a gigantic rock face in America called El Capitan. I’m married to an avid rock climber, so the film was right up his alley.
It’s a great yarn full of ups, downs and even a bit of homicide (sort of). The climbers’ story made global headlines because of their perseverance and determination. By the time they reached the top of their monolith, the whole world was watching.
There was one scene that really resonated with me.
One of the climbers is trying to get across a tricky stretch. There is very little to hold onto and he is very high up from the ground. Down below, people with binoculars and telescopes are cheering him on. But he can’t make it to the end of the section, or the ‘pitch’, without losing his grip.
(Are you getting sweaty hands yet?)
Time after time, the climber tackles his rocky foe until his fingers are swollen and he is exhausted. Throwing himself at the problem isn’t working.
So he takes a break. He walks (climbs?) away and helps his friend to conquer the next part of the climb. His body has time to recover from the trauma and he has the space to think about what he has been doing wrong.
Instead of rushing at the problem, he analyses it, breaks it down, pictures the different options and thinks about how he is going to overcome it.
After a few days, he pulls himself out onto the rock face and tackles the problem again. This time, he pulls off the final move and takes a step closer to the history books.
How does this apply to freelancers?
This is the freelancer advice:
When you are freelancing, it is so easy to feel roadblocked. Decisions and problems come at you constantly, whether it is deciding which website platform to use, choosing a headline (if you’re a writer, of course) or figuring out how to quote.
It happens to me all the time. Sitting in front of my computer, I feel completely stuck. I’m full of false starts and nothing I do seems to work. Ok, so I’m not red-raw and bleeding but I feel like my thinking muscles are starting to bruise.
So, like the climber, I’ve found the best thing I can do is give up.
Take some time. Go for a drive.
Or if I’m on a deadline, I run a ‘thinking shower’ and get under the water for a few minutes.
And just like the guy on the wall (he didn’t come down for like, weeks during his world-first expedition), the space is what makes the difference. I have the skills already. I just need to give them room to come forward.
Advice for freelancers
If you’re trying to make a decision and the answer’s not coming, even though you know the problem is within your capability to solve, walk away for a bit.
When you have some breathing room, go through things quietly in your head. Separate your ‘routes’ / the options you have so they are clear to you.
Often, the best answer will have a way of presenting itself. You’ll find you know what to do.
And you can keep on climbing.
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