In the previous post, I observed that sometimes resistance is not so much a tangible obstacle as it is an absence of creative inspiration, energy and initiative. Following the metaphor of a dry well, the solutions we would take if our water source disappeared can tell us what to do to restore our creative wellspring.
One of the first solutions my workshop students suggested was to Dig Deeper. In writing, this might mean doing more research, asking more probing questions, or delving deeper into your own emotions and thoughts. Any of these can be useful strategies.
But unfortunately, many of us think that digging deeper means ignoring physical, creative or mental exhaustion to push yourself harder.
Demanding that you “buckle down” when you’re dry, is the equivalent of complaining that the aquifer is undisciplined and lazy and it had better start producing results. The difference is that the aquifer will ignore you, but misapplying “discipline” like this on yourself (or another creative person) can do serious damage. This kind of behavior will prolong, rather than eliminate, the dry spell.
Only the Uncreative Push
The demand that we “dig deep, push hard and keep going, no matter what” reveals a lack of creativity. We make these unreasonable demands when we fear we don’t have any other options. We’re afraid that if we don’t push ourselves, nothing will change, and we’ll metaphorically die of dehydration.
Interestingly, none of the workshop participants suggested “Wait for the rain,” which may be a reflection of the fact that we’re all from the Midwest which doesn’t have a true rainy season like other places do, so we’re not psychologically prepared to wait for rain. But we do have winter (most years anyway), and we should have an intuition of what it means to wait out the fallow season and trust new growth will come in time.
The Creative Wait
Waiting for the rains to return is a legitimate solution to a creative dry spell when you’re in Hibernation (the 6th Stage in the Creative Process that follows the completion of a big project). There are things you can do to help move yourself through Hibernation, but driving yourself to work harder, work longer or even work smarter is NOT effective.
To refresh your creative spirit, restore your creative energy and restock the creative well, you need rest, play and beauty. View beautiful art, read great literature, soak in wonderful music, concerts, plays or opera. Alternate being at rest, being outdoors (WITHOUT cell phone, iPod, etc.) and being playful. Note that the emphasis is on being, not doing.
Next time we’ll take a look at When to Beg, Borrow or Steal Writing.