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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Can You Dig Your Way Out of a Creative Dry Spell?

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.

Dig Deeper

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.

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8 Comments on “Can You Dig Your Way Out of a Creative Dry Spell?”

  1. nos canisters September 15, 2014 at 2:57 am #

    Hey! I know this is kinhd of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform arre you using for this website?
    I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options
    ffor another platform. I would be awesome if you could point
    me in the direction of a good platform.


    • rosannebane September 15, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      I use WordPress so I don’t think I can advise you.


  2. seals green May 10, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    I was more than happy to discover this great site. I need to to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!
    ! I definitely liked every bit of it and i also have you book marked to look at new information in your blog.


    • rosannebane May 10, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

      Hi Seals, I’m delighted you enjoy my site and you’re welcome! Thanks for the appreciation. If I may ask, how did you discover my blog? Just curious what brings people around to visit.


  3. anonymous March 17, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    kinda interested to see the other solutions that came up..=))


    • rosannebane March 19, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      Thanks Anon for your interest — I’ll post more solutions this week.



  1. Can I Borrow a Cup of Inspiration? « The Bane of Your Resistance - March 21, 2012

    […] of Inspiration? Another solution suggested for the dry well problem (which we looked at in previous posts) is to beg, borrow or steal water/writing. Or as I prefer to think of it: invite, cite and […]


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