Blogger: Mary Keeley
Location: Books & Such Midwest Office, Illinois
When was the last time you went through a desert season in your writing, whether for a few days, weeks . . . or longer? Mere hours of creative void can be frustrating when you have a deadline looming. Let’s face it, being human, these creative dry spells are going to occur. But you can implement some initiatives to minimize the frequency and severity and to return to peak creative bloom.
Multiple factors may work together to trigger creative dryness. Some of them you may see coming, others strike by surprise. Of course the desert metaphor breaks down because people can take action to respond. The dry parched desert must wait until God sends abundant rain to soak the earth. You can use some simple alerts to test your creative barometric pressure and hopefully ward off, or at least minimize, a dry spell.
1. Are you getting enough sleep? Often adequate rest is under-valued because you have so many demands on your time. It’s good to take note of how you feel when you go to bed at night and when you wake up in the morning. Are you exhausted when your head finally hits the pillow? Do you have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning? Pay attention to these signs.
When necessary, I can go on five or six hours of sleep per night for up to five days. But I’ve learned that’s my limit, and I’ll need to rest up. Sleep is rain for a weary, parched mind. If you’re on deadline, you might think you don’t have time for the luxury of a nap. But it actually could be a shortcut to reinvigorating your creative thought.
2. Are you having trouble focusing? This often happens when many needs are pressing on you for an extended time. Relieve your brain of unnecessary weight by scheduling your to-do list on paper or on your smart phone and let the list remind you when it’s time to attend to another task. A rejection letter or negative feedback from an editor or agent can trigger insecurities and self-doubt. Pay close attention to your emotional reaction to negative news. Although you may not succumb to the sting at the moment, those thoughts can collect in the back of your mind. Allow yourself time to fortify your confidence by reviewing your successes and how much you’ve grown in your craft. It will help to prevent the seed of self-doubt and creative dryness from sprouting later.
3. Do you need to take a God break? Here is an exercise that has always helped me. Sit outside where you can see a large expanse of sky. Ask God to help you to visualize this as a glimpse of the vastness of who he is and of his equally great love for you. His creation that surrounds you is his gift for your pleasure and inspiration. Let the fresh awareness soak into your senses. Then read Psalm 139:1-6.
Are you at a place where your writing is vivid with color as the desert is in bloom after the drenching of life-giving rain? Or are you waiting for that rain? What do you do to get yourself out of creative dry seasons? Have you noticed a pattern of what causes you to enter into those arid times? Do they usually hit you by surprise, or can you sense them coming?