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Writing

Overcoming a Dry Spell…

Greetings from DC!

I know it’s been a while since I last updated. I’m a hospital administrator, so you can probably imagine how crazy my life has been since mid-March. While I can now write essays and research papers on how to staff and schedule COVID test sites and create the perfect drive-thru tent, creative writing took a backseat.  

My writing career, given the challenges I was facing in my other professional life, just didn’t seem as important as we faced this new biological terror. I noticed that my writing was reflecting my lack of engagement and made the painful decision to disengage and refocus my energy toward the fight against COVID. As I wrote once, readers know when you are faking it, and I was doing that. Never try to fake it until you make it—that never works. Take a break.

Here we are 200+ days into this fight, adjusting to a new normal, and things are slowing slightly. I have felt the urge to write again and am asking myself this question? How do you break a writing dry spell?  

You would think that breaking a dry spell would be as easy as picking up a pen or turning on your computer. As I found earlier this month that was easier said than done. It’s not that I have a lack of ideas. Quite the contrary, I’m finding myself filled with words and want to express them. The problems I have been facing revolve around finding the time and focusing my thoughts.

Here are some ideas on how to break a dry spell…

Acceptance…

One thing I realized the first time I opened my computer to write creatively was a sense of grief over the loss of time that I hadn’t spent creating. The first rule of writing is that you do not have to feel creative all the time. 

There are going to be times in your career that you cannot create for a number of reasons. Before this dry spell, I had a period like this when I lost a family member and couldn’t write anything for eight months due to the depression I was feeling at the time. Writers have a connection to their craft. Creating people and worlds is an extremely intimate process and when that goes away, you feel a loss when you try to get it back. Accept that you can’t get that time back, but use those feelings to move on and refocus on your craft.  

Get the words to come…

When you’re ready to start writing again, you might find that words are not coming as they used too.  Again, a few weeks ago, I opened my laptop to start writing and found myself unable to write. I tried every trick I could think of from changing locations to taking a walk, to reading a book, to doodling on scratch paper. What finally got me motivated to write again was pre-reading a book for a friend recently. I was making notes in the margins, and I realized how much I missed the creative process. After I finished with her book, I went to my last manuscript and wrote about 500 words. Inspiration comes when you least expect it.  

When you are experiencing a dry spell or a writer’s block, write down any thoughts and ideas to go back to when you’re ready to start writing again. Find a prompt challenge. Your responses don’t have to be the Pulitzer Prize worthy. They’re meant to get writers to focus on writing and producing.  

Just do it…

Ultimately, getting back to writing requires the writer to pick up their instrument of choice and start writing. Writing is like marathon training. You have to build up endurance to finish projects. Writer’s block and dry spells happen to all authors. Truman Capote, Harper Lee, and Stephen King suffered dry spells. When you are ready to start again, find a time, and just start writing. Look at your last project and decide if you need to finish it or if you want to start over again. Look at old projects to see if they can be worked on. Remember, the key is to get your mind back into a writer’s mindset.

Stay safe, everyone! I hope everyone’s family is healthy and see you soon!

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