How to Get Free When You’re
Feeling Stuck and Scared

image of bird

Spring has finally sprung here in the northeast, but I’m not sure any of us quite believe it. It could still be a snowy 10 degrees tomorrow. Twenty years in New England has taught me that.

Which is why I haven’t really done anything about the fact that my new studio did not come with screens for the windows.

I’m still opening them, mind you. And that little voice in the back of my head has been telling me that, at night while I’m sleeping, a bat could easily fly through and nest in my hair.

Only it wasn’t a bat. It was a little bird.

She flew in and up and then tried to fly out, but there was a window in the way. She panicked. And so did I.

I couldn’t figure out how to help her

I couldn’t grab her. I couldn’t guide her in the right direction. And no matter what I said to her, I couldn’t explain to her how to get out. (Dumb bird.) I couldn’t help her understand that she was okay, that I was going to make it better, that I wouldn’t hurt her.

The worst part was watching her make the same mistake over and over and over and over and over again. Here’s what it looked like:

Since the window was open, there was a narrow space between the top pane and the bottom — and she kept burrowing into it, so I couldn’t get her. And then she would finally come out and fly up and then into the window — only to head back down between the two pieces of glass again.

I stood there, pleading with her.

It’s so easy! Just fly down to where the window is actually open . . . or just let me catch you and put you outside!

But she wouldn’t listen.

She was frantic. She was breathing hard — and if you’ve never seen a bird breathe heavy before, it ain’t pretty. Her eyes were full of fear, I could see it even in their absolute blackness. They looked like they might pop.

I could see her path so clearly, but she just couldn’t

And I thought, how many times have I been this bird?

How many times have my friends and colleagues seen my way out when I couldn’t?

How many times have I seen theirs when they couldn’t?

And how many times did ‘some part of us’ see our own trail to freedom, but not clearly enough to actually follow the map?

Because you know when you’re that bird, right? You hit a crisis. You can feel the panic, you stuff yourself deeper into the problem even when you can see it’s not working. You dig further in, beating your wings against the window.

You’re too scared to stop what you’re doing, even though you know it’s pointless

I kept trying unsuccessfully to grab this bird, and I realized that I actually was frightened. Of a chickadee that weighed a few ounces and had a beak the size of a sunflower seed.

Fortunately, I have a neocortex. I took a deep breath, pulled my Geek Girl sweatshirt sleeves over my hands, and just went for it.

Strongly, but as if I was holding the most delicate glass ball in the world, I got her in between my hands and released her out the window. She flew up into a tree. I called out to her, told her she was okay now, that it was all okay. Trying to calm us both down after the ordeal.

I recognized her self-inflicted entrapment, and I recognized the joy of her freedom.

I said to myself,

I want more of that. I want more of the finding the way forward, to the good stuff.

I both receive (on my own blog) and observe (on Copyblogger) emails and comments with people asking about the hows, whats, whos, whys and whens of writing, blogging, and marketing.

There seems to be a lot of wing flapping and wheel spinning — and much confusion, much looking for ‘the ultimate way’ to success.

What’s got you flapping?

Is it blog content, blog traffic, blog networking, sales, affiliate programs, time management, blog design, content, traffic, networking, competition, the economy, sales?

All of the above? Is seeing that list maybe bringing out a little panic of your own?

Here’s your open window:

  • Take yourself out of the equation. In other words, be the thinking human in the scenario above, not the bird. Pretend it’s a friend struggling. What would you tell him? What kind words or helpful guidance would you offer? Would you be so hard on your friend for being stuck and needing help? Never.
  • Calm down. I don’t think it’s lost on any of us that if that bird had just relaxed, maybe taken a Valium or had a nice bubble bath, she would have found her answer much faster. Notice if your panic, stress, and anxiety are making it even harder for you to find solutions.
  • Try something new. Beating your wings against the glass is not comfortable. Is what you’re doing over and over comfortable? Does it feel good? Is it getting results? If the answer is No, try something new. I don’t care what it is. Just switch things up, hit refresh.
  • Ask for help. This is a strength and not a weakness. Remember the wise words of Bono, “You don’t have to go it alone.” The blogosphere is a community for a reason — we all like to communicate, share, support, and problem solve. And we really like to do it together. Have a hard time accepting help? To combat this, I suggest you give a little more.

By the way, about an hour later, I went to look out the window and see if I could see that little bird, hoping she was okay.

But I got distracted when I saw she had crapped on my window.

I forgave her immediately, of course. Because I understand. Sometimes this stuff scares the crap out of me, too.

About the Author: Lover of butter, wordplayer, marketing writer, ghostwriter, social media manager/strategist Julie Roads is the owner/founder of Writing Roads. Follow her on Twitter @writingroads.

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Comments

  1. This is beautiful Julie. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. A little bird thought looks like a new blogger with his new blog in this blogosphere. In the start he needs a help but as the time passes he will learn and master into it and provides its own services and getting started living from the web

  3. Hey Julie,

    Great way to end the week. This was an amazing post!

    I have been there several times. Banging my head on the same project over and over with no results. When I finally decide to take a breather and ask someone for help. The situation solved in minutes.

    I guess it’s the guy in me that wants to figure it out all by myself. Now, I always ask for help!

    Have a great weekend…
    Josh

  4. Brian, you are so welcome. Thank you for helping me share…

  5. Thanks Julie! I needed this. I have my moments when I’m both – the bird and the human – which is weird. Although I feel a bit nutty when I’m coaching myself through my trials – I realize that because I want to be free more than ever, I’m just gonna have to suck up this crap :) for now.

  6. I wonder if there’s anyone who hasn’t been that bird at times. I loved the way this made that scared stuck feeling so clear, thanks Julie.

  7. When I get into panic mode, I literally cannot think, so I relate to that little bird. I’m getting better at learning to take a few deep breaths and looking at different options before taking flight in challenging circumstances.

  8. Excellent musings on panic.

    I know your post is not really “about” the bird. However, since you are in New England, you might want to call Screenmobile. :)

  9. What a thought-provoking and lovely article, Julie. I quite enjoyed reading it.

    This reminds me of the person who is holding fast to the bars in front of them, but doesn’t realize that the cell door is open. They only have to look for the opening to free themselves.

    Thanks for sharing this story,
    Karen

  10. PJM – I think you’re right.

  11. I really like your analogy. I very much enjoyed reading this, it hit home with me. Thanks for writing it.

  12. When I lived in Guatemala two birds “broke into” my house as well… I ended up having to use my laundry net to snag them and take them outside. It was quite the experience, so your analogy was very easy to relate to.

    Great post for a Friday morning.

    Thanks!

  13. What a beautifully crafted message. A great illustration of not only telling your readers what to do but using the post iteslf as an example of what to do.

    To continue with your analogy:

    The bird had no idea what your intentions were and what your motivations were. Similarly, we’ll never be willing to let someone help us unless we trust them. That’s self-preservation.

    That’s why trust is so vitally important in relationships. Whether it’s a marriage partner or a business colleague you have to be able to trust that the other person’s motive is to help you and that they actually know how to help.

    I discuss the elements of trust on my blog. Simply put, it’s understanding. We have to understand someone before we can trust them.

  14. Wow, Julie! Really. Wow.

    I know that a great blogger hopes to pierce the heart of at least one reader, to open one pair of eyes, to even generate one of those rare “aha!” moments.

    I am that reader, and you have just made a difference with me. Thank you for this powerful story!

  15. What a beautiful post. And timely for me as well – I think I really needed to hear this, not because I didn’t already know where I was, but because sometimes you need someone else to say, “Hey, step back a little. You can do it.”

    So, thanks.

  16. Very nice subject (plus the writing rocks too)! Thanks for making my day. – L

  17. Andrew Billmann :

    Gorgeous writing, Julie. Beautiful.

  18. A poignant piece of writing, Julie! A wonderful analogy that I relate to on so many levels.

  19. Siddhartha – love your thoughts on trust. I tried so hard to tell her I was a nice person that would help her, it’s frustrating to be on that side of the distrust! Great reminder…

  20. Susan – thank you for telling me that. Thrills me to the bone (and out to my wing tips).

  21. Your writing is so enjoyable to read.

  22. This is an excellently constructed piece- very clever way to weave drama into your instruction, and a perfect metaphor. :-) It’s also exacly what I needed right now- I read this as a way to defuse, instead of staring at my blank document screen.

  23. I have always been inspired by birds. What a perfect analogy for spring! Good Job!

  24. Wonderful story Julie. Thanks very much for sharing your wonderfully exact description of life.

  25. This is just lovely! And ever so accurate in my case. So often lately I’ve felt like I’m beating my wings on my laptop screen, trying to learn/fix/understand everything at once.

    Why, oh, why do we do that?

    Especially when it so much easier and much less panic-inducing to take that step back, that calming breath, (perhaps a big shot of bourbon) and then continue reading and learning and trying. With patience and persistence, it’ll come.

  26. What a riveting post! Julie, your piece is so well crafted.

    I have been panicking a bit about keeping up with my new blog. Your post addressed that, but something else too. Your fine writing reminds me why I started this–to write daily–write, write, write. Thanks for the inspiration.

  27. Michael Smith :

    Bingo! Had the exact same experience this week (it’s snowing in Colorado today!). Tried the same things you tried (don’t have a Greek Girl sweatshirt, though).

    Finally realized that I was the only one who had a timetable (“Now!”). So I opened several doors and let the bird take her pick–and choose her own time to leave.

    Of course, that COULD have led to other birds flying in…

    Do you think we sometimes panic because of artificial deadlines with our blogging?

  28. Michael – can you imagine if you’d ended up with 20 birds in your house? Ha!

  29. Great post, Julie! Just what I needed today!

  30. Julie,

    What a great blog! The part I liked best was the advice to take yourself out of the equation and act like the human. I’m trying to do that more often and I find I give very sensible advice if I act as if I’m giving that advice to someone else. Too often we expect perfection of ourselves, and since we can’t produce perfect, we panic.

    The second best part was the advice that sometimes it’s better to take a break. That’s hard advice to take because it seems that if we have a big problem, we should work harder, not take a break. It’s hard for us to accept that it might be better to soak in a hot tub, which feels like doing nothing, than to beat your head against the wall (or window), which feels like doing a lot. It takes some practice to realize it actually can make us more productive. Plus, it makes the people around us happier when we’re not frantic.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Connie Oswald Stofko

  31. Julie, perhaps that bird was a Twitter bird trying to warn you that spending too much time tweeting instead of tending to business is like banging your head against the glass?

    And the crap on the window; that was his way of unfollowing you?

    I could be wrong. ;)

  32. Wrong, Shane – but amusing.

  33. Kelly Bouchard :

    Julie that was so beautifully written and so well illustrated, what a great metaphor. For the last month I’ve been the bird, and you just pulled me out of my own story…Thank you! This one’s a keeper in the inspirational file :)

  34. CopyBlogger always has the best and most random article starts. That’s why I love this blog.

    Great post – AGAIN!

  35. Julie, you are amazing. Great post.

  36. Thanks Julie, fantastic posts like this one are the reason why I continue reading copyblogger nearly every day. Well done.

  37. I absolutely loved your blog post today! The ending was hilarious, thanks for the Friday laugh! :)

  38. Joyously serendipitous! These words were exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you, Ms. Roads!

  39. I really enjoyed your point about when we pannick, we sometimes do the same futile thing over and over, even though we KNOW that it’s not getting us anywhere.

    I think that is so true in small business, when people are in the growth stage. We want to be workaholics. We know we have to put the pedal to the metal, so we find something that we like to do and do it 1000 x, even though that thing may not bring us any success.

    There is comfort in banging your head against the proverbial wall, because it’s less scary, but we have to jump outside of ourselves and really go for the stuff that lets out bird outside where it belongs.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  40. Joshua – how odd and ridiculous that the head banging is the less scary comfort zone! Great comment…

  41. One of the more well written posts I’ve read here. Very nicely done.

  42. I had the same thing happen a few weeks ago. A Purple Martin got stuck in my wood stove and in my efforts to liberate him, he flew around my house for a while ’til I could shoo him out the door. Scared the daylights out of me but I know he was 10x more scared than me (I had already put all the cats outside-whew!). Thanks as always for a fab read!

  43. Julie,
    What a wonderful, inspiring message. The whole “beating my wings against the window” mode sucks and having some great, constructive options to switch gears is super.

  44. Love this. That is all. Just smiles and loved it.

  45. My colleague (and fellow blogger) IM’d me a link to this and simply said: “This post is brilliant.” She was so right!

  46. Okay, it’s official. The next time I feel like that little bird? I’m coming back to this post to read all of your comments.

    If this isn’t an example of how writing from the heart and writing from life doesn’t create connection, then I don’t know what is. Whether you’re a business OR personal blogger.

    Thank you all…

  47. Great post. Who hasn’t felt like that little bird?

  48. What a great post! I completely identified with the bird seeking freedom from her/his dilemma.

    It’s so important to realize what we’re going through isn’t unique or novel — it’s soothing to be aware of our common experience. Makes us feel a little less crazy and that goes a long way in continuing to move forward even though we feel engulfed with fear.

    Blessings! Jane

  49. Your post couldn’t have been more timely! Last night, I was completely overwhelmed by the long mental checklist of all the things I have to accomplish for my blog. I felt like it was basically impossible with the limited time/energy I have and I should just call it quits and stick to my day job, which at least pays. This post really helped me put things in perspective again. Thank you!

  50. Really great and inspiring, Julie. Sometimes in hard times you get so confused that you can’t even just think about anything, to go think about the solution itself.

    Thanks for sharing these tips with us, I find them calming and inspiring :).

  51. @Jane, I agree, I think that’s a big part of the power here. We think, “How could I possibly be this dumb,” but it’s just a part of being human beings. Easier to get clear when we’re not kicking ourselves.

  52. Oh Julie!! Point taken, well taken. What a great story to illustrate the head-wall-banging scenario. Been there, done that and still do sometimes.

    What really helps me is to take a break from it, get up and physically move around. By doing so, we change our energy and it’s the fastest way I know to get out of the whirlpool sucking me in.

    Off to share this post, thanks again! Tia @TiaSparkles

  53. “But I got distracted when I saw she had crapped on my window”

    Loved that line.

    I’ve been this little bird so many times. Maybe every single week (day?) of my life!

  54. Thank you for such a well-written and inspiring creation. I also appreciate being reminded of the importance and value of giving. So often I fear I’ll be diminished; most often, I am instead replenished.

  55. So glad you got that, Angela – for me it also really balances those thoughts of ‘I’m taking too much…’ – I hate that.

  56. I like the third person approach to a problem. I havent heard of that and the analogy is great! Just this week I was that bird. Enjoyed the read!

  57. This is just an amazing post Julie! Great, great job. :D

    I know that when I panic or get a little nervous, I lose my train of thought. In both blogging, and non-blogging. Sometimes I get really overwhelmed with things I need to do, or am stressing about the things I haven’t done yet.

    Sometimes I bring my offline woes into “work,” and that doesn’t help me stay clam and get what needs to be done, done.

  58. You speak the Gospel sister. This is all so true and perfectly descriptive of the week I just had. I finally stopped flapping and low and behold I saw the open window that had been there all along.

  59. Tehane Wurdeman :

    This a great post and timely. Just what I needed. Thanks for sharing!

  60. Is it blog content, blog traffic, blog networking, sales, affiliate programs, time management, blog design, content, traffic, networking, competition, the economy, sales?

    Very good question. The answer is yes.

    Your bird friend and I are one. It can be a hell of a task to decide when the head has hit the windows enough times. What to do?
    Give up. Probably not.
    Time out? Maybe, but no time.
    Keep at it? Well, maybe just one more try.

    Big decisions. How much time to I try to edit a video of a bus – all I need is a little clip of a rolling bus – for a blog post? Well, it may be an important post.

    So, one more try, then take a break.

  61. Julie,

    Thanks!

    That was some seriously great writing that could not have come at a better time.

    The window has been open all this time?

  62. This is excellent. I love the analogy and I love your quotes talking to the bird, encouraging her to get free.

    Thanks for sharing this. How inspiring!

  63. A masterpiece. (All I can say.)

  64. You helped me take myself out of my equation recently and it sure did improve how I am viewing things now – thanks.

  65. Michael – YES, the window has been open this WHOLE time. Hard to believe? Yes. A delightful discovery? YES!

  66. Thnx. You’re a breath of fresh air – with an oxygen chaser.

  67. Just what I needed to hear Julie. Thank you.

  68. Reading this, I connected so much to that little bird. Until the end of course, because I’d never do that to your window. It seems that I’m not alone in this flutter-phase in which I find myself. I see glimmers of light and head for it ~ only to hit the window or wedge myself in realities that I’d mistaken for the path.

    Julie, you have a gift. Your words sync directly to the heart and you infuse something wonderful so we remember we have wings when our belief in Self is as small as a sunflower seed.

    Thank you …

  69. Good advice. When things are not going our way, we need to step back and reassess where we are and where we want to go.

    A Little reflection on these things can go a long way to help us change our course for the better.

  70. Hey butter lover … this perfect story lights up your beautiful precision — “self-inflicted entrapment.”

  71. Loved the ending ;-) Yeah, I get the crap scared out of me all the time …

  72. Great metaphor, enjoyed the read.

  73. Love the “how many times have I been this bird? ” …This post is a gift . Thank you Julie.

  74. Thank you – what a delightful story !

  75. Mary E. Ulrich :

    Beautiful analogy.

    Yesterday I swore I was going to relax and ignore all this social media stuff–maybe even for good.

    I’m so happy I read your message of encouragement. Thanks.

  76. Diana! You get points for that one…never been called that before. Love it! And most definitely think I’m gonna need it in t-shirt form.

  77. This happened to me one time, but it actually was a bat. My room mate and I ran around the room frantically for about 10 minutes before we settled down, thought it out and helped him out with a fishing net.

    “Take yourself out of the equation”, That advice can work on so many levels.

  78. Julie,
    Powerful. Timely. Scary. What resonated with me:
    “How many times have my friends and colleagues seen my way out when I couldn’t?”

    How many times have I seen theirs when they couldn’t?”
    Just talked with my brother about these very concepts. How did you know? Were you listening? :)
    THANKS FOR A GREAT POST. KEEP ON.

  79. Thanks Julie, and Copyblogger, for being good, caring about quality, for flapping your wings…

    I got as far as “be the thinking human, not the bird,” slumped back in my squeaky chair, looked up at the familiar ceiling, sighed forcefully and caught myself thinking –

    “I just want someone else to be the thinking human for once.”

    And that is probably why I’m still stuck in the gap with a clear view of the outdoors and no idea how to get out there!

  80. Thank you for this beautiful post! I was that little bird yesterday:-) And today your post has inspired me to get back to writing.

    I learned so much from this post not just about getting unstuck but also how to structure a quality post that seamlessly touches, inspires and teaches. Thank you!

  81. Susan T. Blake :

    Julie, thanks so much for a terrific post! Not only was the advice great, but it is so encouraging to see someone write in the style I am going for – story with a moral. Thank you!

  82. What a great story about the little bird (both the analogy and the story of the bird). I am currently reading (well…listening to the CDs of) David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. It goes so well with your post because he says that it usually only takes 10 seconds of clear thinking to decide what we need to do instead of hiding (in between panes of glass?) from projects/errands/phonecalls that need to be done.

    Like everyone else, I’m not immune to beating my head against a wall ( or window pane) or beating myself up when I get stuck on a writing project. And as you so clearly say, just a little bit of time-out and trying something different is probably all we need.

    I loved this post and will print it out for later reading again.

  83. Great perspective! Thank you for offering a great way out of the mire!

    Hugs and butterflies,
    ~T~

  84. Really beautiful article. Sometimes all it takes is asking for some help from a friend and problems seem to go away.

  85. Loved the ending :-) Yeah, this is really a nice share mate….keep up your good work :-) :-) :-)

  86. Hi guys,

    When you panic. It is always best for you to find help right away. Because when you panic you can’t see correctly and you need somebody to help you get back on the right path.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  87. Great article—and you’ve obviously said something a lot of us resonate with. When I think about that little bird beating her wings against the window, I’m reminded of how often I feel like I’m making a lot of effort for little in the way of results, and how I flit from one perceived method to another, in an effort to find my way. This wonderful anecdote reminds me that if I just stopped flitting about long enough to take a good look at things at proceed with more thought (and calm), I’d find my way to better results.

  88. Hi Julie
    Well written article. Great life lessons.
    Perfect example of the definition of insanity
    ” Keep doing the same thing over and over but expecting a diferent result!” Poor bird does not have the oportunities we have to learn by our mistakes and maybe change course. We all need to use these sort of examples in our lives to avoid making the same mistakes over and over without learning.We are never chalenged with anything we can not handle.
    Making mistakes is a vital part of the learning process.
    If there is one thing that has changed my life more than anything else, it is this one thing I read “There is no such thing as problems just opportunities” use this and see what a diference this makes in your life also.
    Very best regards Steve

  89. I printed this and read this last night ! What a wonderful little analogy ! I love the “hit refresh” – a great metaphor for what I don’t do enough of. I like the “Have a talk with yourself as if you were helping a friend”. I do this so often, help a friend out of a pickle but forget I can talk myself through things too. Panic sets in and I get myself in a flap, like the bird, like you, like me, like us all.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful little story with us :)

  90. Alice Powell :

    Julie,
    Thank you so much!! This is exactly how I have been feeling for a while now. I have known the items you listed, but when you’re in a panic you forget…it’s nice to be reminded.
    As a “mature” woman about to launch a brand new venture and “hit the streets” once again (it’s been a while), I have to admit I am scared “S….less”! I have found every possible procrastination avenue I could run down to avoid the inevitable…talking to new folks. I’m printing this out & posting next to my desk to encourage me to go on…get out there. What’s the worse that could happen…
    Alice

  91. Which is always the best way I choose to problem solved, a good way is to go for help! With them we come pouring out what the actual problems encountered.

  92. What’s her (the bird) name? :)

  93. Her name? Spike.

  94. This is absolutely a brilliant read,

  95. Julie! Thank you for this amazing post. I am so stuck it’s not funny….but your words are making me think…and that’s a good thing….I guess I am not the only one who is in this position.

    Thank you!