If you ever get to the point where the writing just won’t come, and I’m not talking about the usual, “I just don’t want to write today.” Rather, I mean a full-blown funk where every idea is a bad one and even those you can stomach elicit nothing more than a few dribbly prepositions that you backspace over as soon as they hit the screen, perhaps you need to re-energize your writing well.
The writing well is that place from which all good stories flow. It’s the place where the excitement for a character or a plot begins and where you go when you need inspiration. Sometimes the well is overflowing with ideas, pure energy bubbling over the top, ladle some up and drink in the beauty. But then, in the midst of a long drought, you go to the well and find it completely dry, not even a muddy bottom.
I’ve had this happen more than once. Each time I wonder if it will ever come back.
It’s the unpublished writer’s lot to burn the candle at both ends. You must feed yourself (and maybe others too) and so you work, trying to squeeze the writing in at odd hours or in between activities. Eventually, you’re going to dry up your well.
The core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is a different story. Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals—behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.
I came across this article by way of an interview on ComputerWorld. The author, Tony Schwartz, lays out an very simple structure for managing a hectic life structure, one that the struggling writer can really cope with and understand.
As an aside, I’ve done the trick with email Mr. Schwartz describes. It works quite well, but it does separate you from your colleagues. Most workplaces have a cult of email that feels a lot like drinking. If you’re not tapped in and messaging back and forth constantly, you’re voted off the island. A scary situation at first, but more and more relaxing as time goes by.
Intermittent breaks for renewal, we have found, result in higher and more sustainable performance. The length of renewal is less important than the quality.
Here are a few ways that I try to get my writing well re-energized:
- At lunch, I go to a cafe and relax. I don’t do business lunches or grab a bite on the run. I sit down with an honest to goodness cup of coffee and a book. I let the sunshine fall over me (hopefully, please go away clouds) and try my best to forget about the strange world I just left behind.
- Getting out and walking is another great way to keep the waters flowing. Just back away from the keyboard and take a stroll. Doesn’t have to be a long one. Just enough to get you not thinking about whatever it was you were thinking.
- A morning ritual that does not involve the immediate consumption of news, email, or any other distracting media is also helpful in gathering your energy for writing. I like to have an espresso and take a leisurely read of the TLS. Hugo Williams’ column is especially good for getting my mind a million miles away from all the little machines I need to tend during the day.
Best of luck to you as you write and work! Now go out and get some fresh air!!!