I don’t think it is unusual for creatives to experience dry spells.
Especially those of us who work full-time jobs and can only create during those precious rare moments we have to ourselves.
For me, however, the dry spells have become disconcertingly common, to the point where I wonder if this is my new normal.
I’ve had success with existing projects, yes, but I’ve noticed the act of being creative has become more of a Herculean effort.
When I was younger, I struggled sticking to one novel idea because my mind was constantly overflowing with other stories. The plot bunnies jumped and multiplied until I inevitably abandoned whatever I was working on to chase that high of new possibilities.
Over the last year or so, I struggle coming up with new material. I missed the days when I could just go to the computer, plop down and punch out a short story before dinner. I would pick at plot threads from songs and weave a whole story out of them, even if they didn’t have a clear narrative.
I would sit on a concrete bench in the park while bread-gorged geese and runners ambled past, writing poems for fun.
I grew up. I got an adult job. I did adult things.
While it isn’t all bad (I like having things to call my own as well as being in charge of my own life), I find myself caught it a loop of predictability and frustration.
Dealing with aggravating people day in and day out leaves me emotionally exhausted. I favor watching Youtube videos over reading most days because my mind is too numb to keep up with the plot. My “writing time” consists mostly of typing a paragraph or two and then closing it to…watch more Youtube.
My sanity has become so sparse I have to ration it.
As a result, I have latched onto whatever ideas have crossed my path like a codependent girlfriend, obsessing and second-guessing myself at every turn.
I made some progress, plotting my current novel, but eventually….the ideas stopped coming.
I got stuck.
I wallowed in self-pity for days until my fiancé sat me down and forced me to talk it out with him.
I told him I couldn’t do it anymore. None of my ideas were working. It didn’t matter how hard I tried, or how many hours I committed, I just wasn’t cutting it.
I’m just not talented enough.
He brought me my laptop and set the timer on his phone to 30 minutes.
“Write me a story,” he said. “You have 30 minutes. Go.”
My brain stalled. I couldn’t write a story in 30 minutes.
It wouldn’t be any good.
By the time I thought of something marginally workable, my timetable would be over. He would read it and think it was terrible.
And then what?
Nothing would happen if I wrote a bad short story.
Nobody would stop being my friend. Nobody would call me a loser.
There would be absolutely no consequences.
So I wrote.
I wrote a short story about a tax collector from the Middle Ages visiting a family who filed their taxes incorrectly. It was dumb and made no sense, but I finished it.
I sprinted too fast for my mental critic to catch up with me. I had fun. I didn’t worry about plot direction, or characters, or “what I was trying to say.”
I just wrote and I felt amazing.
Since then I’ve written what I call “F-it Bucket” stories; stories I know no one will see (or want to) and that’s the entire point.
I find a prompt online or in this neat book I found on Amazon, and I write about—whatever it is— for an hour to 30 minutes everyday.
I don’t worry.
I just let my imagination fly.
Some of the ideas have potential, but most of them don’t.
And that is fine.
Sometimes creativity doesn’t need to justify its existence. It can just be for its own sake. Not every story needs to be tailored to fit human consumption. It can be laughable, redundant, or just plain stupid. As long as you let yourself enjoy the process, it isn’t a waste.
It has helped me reinvigorate my love of creation and given me the motivation I lacked to continue on with my other projects.
It cleared out the proverbial clot from my creative blood stream.
If any of you are struggling with doubt or need something to help your brain not be as stupid, I highly recommend.