I’m entering a difficult period for my creative writing. As I embark on a publishing quest with my novel, I’m spending most of my writing-allotted time busy sending things out to publishers or researching contests and opportunities. That leaves very little time for thinking, dreaming, and planning for my next writing projects. I haven’t written a new story or gotten a new idea for a story since I left my summer writing residency.
It’s pretty much as I feared as I entered the last days of that blissful time; once I returned to the real world, it would become exceedingly difficult to find real time and mental space to work on writing. We’ve all been in this dreaded space, where we feel that we are entering a terrible dry spell. It seems like creativity has become something beyond our reach, something alien and foreign. That spell feeds on itself as our doubts grow and our boldness wavers. We begin to wonder if we have anything left in us that’s worth writing. And that doubt makes it harder and harder to think freely and creatively.
So what to do? I realized today, as I was writing for the new literary review I am due to launch soon, that my creativity had not dried up and withered away. Instead, my mind was still teeming with thoughts. I was eager to write for that review and also for this blog. The funny thing is that for writers, I think our creativity doesn’t really dry up. Like water, it finds other avenues, and flows along paths of lesser resistance, sometimes deep underground, in secret caves and aqueducts. I was using my creative energy for other kinds of thought and writing.
That’s not a depressing thought; it’s a hopeful one. If creativity is a finite source like energy (or willpower), then it also obeys its own conservation laws as well. You are not going to suddenly stop being creative; but your creativity might be coming out in unexpected ways. It’s up to you to be mindful of where your energy is going, and do your best to direct it the way you want. But as one of the artists at my residency taught me, sometimes there is no way to force your creative energy in one direction. Sometimes you just have to follow the flow and see where it takes you. You may have to go underground for a while. But water that flows through caves usually finds its way back to the sea. So be patient. Listen to yourself; trust your creativity; and follow the flow.