A few years ago, my husband and I were at the beach. We were watching this hilarious dog running around in the surf. Like he owned it all.
Head up high.
Suddenly, he disappeared. Just, FOOMP, fell into some random tide pool. The look on his face was priceless. Priceless. He thrashed around for a second, royally freaked out, and then found his way out. It took him about a minute of looking over his dog-shoulder, walking with his tail down, and shaking the embarrassment off and he was back at it. Running like nothing happened.
Sometimes, I am this dog.
Sometimes I’m writing and I am cocky. So cocky. I’m on a roll. I meet my goals, I like what I’m writing.
And then, inevitably, I hit a tide pool. FOOMP! I’m sucked into this vortex and instead of sand and water it’s doubt and worry swirling around me and getting up my nose. This vortex of un-creativity happens at least once per book, sometimes more. The first few times it happened, oh my, I was freaked. Right away I thought, “Whelp. That was a good run, but I guess I can’t be a writer anymore cause I don’t know what to write about.”
This, of course, was a ridiculous reaction. But I think we all have that teenage tendency toward hyperbolic thinking every once in a while.
Anyway, so believing my writing career was thus finished, I went back to doing what I’d been doing so much before. Reading. I read books that had been collecting dust on my shelves. I read books that kids had been clamoring over in my classroom. I read books people recommended to me.
I. Read. A. Ton.
And you know what started to happen again? You got it! I started to feel like I had ideas again. I started to think about my characters, miss them, hear them telling me what should happen next. I got out of tide pool. I flailed, freaked out, and spent time feeling ashamed, but I was back at it! I was running again! I owned the beach again!
I’m in that tide pool right now.
And being in one of these vortexes presently, I have to remind myself of this process. I know other writers who do not go through this. I’m sure others go through something quite similar. We all have our creative processes. And I’m figuring out that this is mine. It doesn’t mean anything bad. It just is.
I’ve come to see my brain as a sponge (flattering, I know). And sometimes it is just full of creative juices (I’ve always kind of had a love/hate relationship with that phrase. It’s gross, but feels so accurate.) Sometimes ideas drip off of me. I’ll be trucking along in my story AND I’ll even think of new book ideas. Things are happening.
Other times. Well. Other times it feels like those juices are all gone. I’ve squished too much of myself into my work or into my story and there’s no more liquid. And no matter how hard I squeeze and wring, nothing’s coming out. Not. A. Drop.
Luckily, I’ve come to accept this. I am not writing on a deadline yet (that’s a super cool way of saying no one has asked to buy any of my books), it’s okay if I need to take a few weeks to refill, and if I take this time for myself, for my soul, for my brain, it’s going to pay off.
I think many of us need to remember this in our lives. Take time for yourself. Refill. Whatever that may look like for you. For me, it’s reading. Filling my head with other people’s awesome stories and great characters makes it easier for me to access mine again. I’m happy to have the ability to hit the pause button, to sip the imagination of others, to read, to refill my brain-sponge.
And, hopefully soon, those creative juices (eww) will be flowing and dripping and whatever other icky, wet metaphor you can think of. In the meantime, you’ll find me with my nose in a book, or four.