Daily Archives: June 11, 2015

Pumping a Dry Well

Every once in a while, my get-up-and-go gets up and goes. Coming up with ideas becomes hard, my mind seems to be blank, and projects that enthralled me yesterday are as dry as a cow’s skull in the Chihuahua desert. What to do?

People have many ways of dealing with writer’s block. One of my favorites is to walk away from whatever I’m working on and do something else that’s creative. I may start an entirely unrelated story; research an idea, exercise, or cook, anything that takes me away from the dead spot.

I used to race sailboats. At times, there are calms and you sit dead in the water, but there are things you can do. The best of those is to look for a spot where the water is rippled. That tells you there is wind there. You point your boat to where there is some activity and hope it will get good winds. The same applies to writing. You can sit in a dead space forever, but if you go to where there is some activity, you can get started again.

Another thing to do is to change your mindset about what you are doing. When it comes to writing there are several categories of activity, among them are: creative writing, rereading your work out loud, having someone else read it, scanning your work for known errors, designing book covers,  writing endnotes, preparing your book for epublication, and marketing your work.

I believe each of these activities use different ego states, different ways of thinking. When you go from creative writing to editing, for example, you change your perspective and use different parts of your brain.  Creativity requires childlike ideation; editing requires adult thinking. It is almost impossible to do those two activities at the same time.

Putting heavy demands on yourself when your creativity goes—when you dry up, hardly ever works. Why? It’s like telling a bored child to stop being bored and play. They sullenly stare at you like a zombie waiting for you to tell them how to play. You have to distract them by having them do something else, only then can they get back into their playing mode.

The problem is the same with many writers. If you tell them to just be creative, they give you the same look as a child you’ve told to play. You have to change your view of life if you’re stuck.

I believe this so strongly that I worked it into my lectures at the university where I worked. I didn’t intentionally include it. When I retired, my students gave me a plaque that read, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Each of us can change how we look at the world at will.