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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast about writing that I started in 2017 and that ran, more or less weekly, until April 2022. This is a republication of issue #21, addressing how to handle a creative dry spell. The post first ran on June 16/17.
Welcome to The Write Question, the video podcast designed to answer your questions about writing. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant.
Today I have a question from Sharon Gravelle, an artist living in Calgary, Alberta. Here’s what she asked:
[recording] “I am having a creative dry spell for writing right now as my life is complicated. All I have time to do is write morning pages, to which I add photographs, as I am interested in writing a second screenplay and I want to be visually creative too. So, how would you recommend that I parse out something worthwhile in my morning pages that I could turn into the next screenplay?”
Thanks for the question, Sharon.
First off, congratulations on doing morning pages. That’s a really good idea for many people. But don’t try to get something “productive” out of them. Here’s how Julia Cameron — the inventor of morning pages — describes them:
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
Notice how she says not to “over-think” them.
Sharon, the whole idea of creative dry spells is so interesting to me. And what I have to suggest might surprise you: I think you may be pushing yourself too hard.
I’m not sure what “complicated” means for you but if I were to use that word myself, it might mean I had too many demands on my time. Or it might mean I was facing some financial pressure. Or it might mean I was looking after someone who was sick. It could mean a whole host of difficult, challenging issues.
And, worse, most of these demands are usually outside of our own control. That makes them even harder to deal with. So the first thing I’m going to suggest to help give your creativity a bit of a jolt is to take some time for yourself.
Are you getting enough fun in your life? Do you have the chance to meet with friends for coffee, meals or walks? Do you have enough opportunity for arts and entertainment? I mean movies, concerts, art exhibits and plays. Do you get regular exercise?
I know all these things sound like the very opposite of work, but that’s the point. You know the expression, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” I’d rewrite that to, “all writing and no play makes Jack unable to create.” To be creative your brain needs time to relax and have fun.
Funnily enough, I think your desire to get something useful out of morning pages may be exactly what’s impeding you.
Instead of being so driven by productivity, let yourself relax more and allow your mind to wander. One of the best ways to do this is to get away from your desk. Did you know that your desk is one of the worst places to try to find your creativity? We’re all more creative when we’re slightly distracted doing something else. Go for a walk. Do the dishes. Groom the dog if you have one. These are all activities that will inspire your creative brain. I’ve written a blog post on this topic and I include the link below.
You are a creative person, Sharon. Your history as a visual artist demonstrates that. Just relax and give your creativity a chance to come to the surface again.
Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from Maya Angelou: “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Thanks for your question, Sharon. Good luck with ending your dry spell. I know it will happen when you least expect it.
Thanks so much for watching. If YOU have a question, you can email, tweet, or skype me. You can find the details in the description below along with any resources I’ve mentioned. And don’t forget to like and subscribe to the video.