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I have drained the well.

I know better. And yet, when I stop to measure the charge left in my physical, emotional, and spiritual batteries there’s not much more than a flicker. Just enough to drag through another day, so long as nothing big comes along, so long as I am not called upon for any acts of will and discernment.

Yeah right.

Life isn’t going to stop for me. My job isn’t going to stop presenting me with difficult challenges and decisions. The kid still needs to get ready for college and I have a house to run and a family to love. The cat is sick. Second Son lost his glasses. The newsletter I edit for the DMHP association is coming up due again.

Meanwhile, I have new writing goals and plans. So much to do. So little time.

It’s not my fault, this time, but it is still my responsibility to seek the cure.

I know perfectly well what I need.  Daily yoga. Long walks in the woods. Good books. Naps. Journal writing. Art. Time away from people. A whole day home alone in my jammies. I figure a month ought to do it.

This is where the daydream breaks up in hysterical laughter. A month? Not gonna happen. Maybe a day, if I’m lucky.

And so, I look for healing and refilling in the little things, in the odd moments scattered throughout the day. A picture that I love, hung where I see it every time I walk by. A hummingbird watching me hang out the laundry. A purring cat. A hug. Reading a great book. Talking to friends. Even just taking a moment to stand on my front porch barefoot, eyes closed, soaking in the energy from the world around me with every pore.

Not surprising that it’s been difficult to get words down on the page. There’s temptation to just hammer away, and although sometimes this is the right approach – butt in chair, hands on keys, right? –  I know it’s the wrong one now. There is a time for everything under the sun, and sometimes that means just being kind to yourself and giving the creativity well a chance to refill.

In her lovely book The Right to Write, Julia Cameron likens the writing life to the life of an athlete. For every fast mile, nine slow ones, she says. As a maintenance solution to the problem of draining the well she suggests weekly adventures, alone – dates with your creativity. This is a great idea, but it’s too late for that. For now I don’t need new adventures, I need time to process the old.

And so, I’m cutting myself some slack, setting aside the writing deadlines I’d set for myself to explore, gently, the writing that is talking to me. If I am kind to myself, I know that soon I will recharge and be ready once again to take on the world. And more importantly, to listen to the story that wants to manifest through me, and write it down.

So, this morning I’m reminded of Pilgrim’s Progress – if you ever waded your way through that book, you’ll know about the Slough of Despond, and the Giant Despair, and various other distractions and obstacles along the way.  Of course, Pilgrim was on a journey for the salvation of his soul, and I’m merely trying to get a book published, so I suppose it’s not quite fair to use his allegory for my own purposes.  Not being one to follow the rules, I think I will do so anyway!

I am stumbling along, a little dusty and wounded, done with resting but still working on “refilling the well” as Julia Cameron would say.  Swimming North is 1000 words farther along, and that’s after writing and immediately deleting 300 words that were just wandering down the garden path.  I’m also working on my old YA fantasy novel, the one I cast aside due to fear of querying and rejection and trying to get published.

This is not a simple project, because the electronic files for the entire first half are corrupted, so I have to retype from the hard copy.  There is a beauty to this, as it turns out – the perfect occupation for a temporarily burnt out writer who still wants to feel like she’s working but is having a hard time creating anything new.   It’s a decent story, and I can make it better.  Apparently, if there is an ‘easier place to break in’ in this publishing economy, YA is it, so here we go.  I’m not abandoning the other novels, just adapting my plan.

Anybody else get anything accomplished over the weekend?  I am still off today, and hope to finally reach that elusive 55K on Swimming North.  May your muses be kind and generous and your fingers accurate on the keys.

I woke up this morning certain that every word I’ve ever written was a waste of time.  Actually, more of a cosmic Waste of Time, as though I’d committed an unpardonable sin by daring to write more than one novel before I’ve published anything worth mentioning.  I was fully expecting the writing police to turn up at my door, shouting “Uppington Smythe, you are hereby charged with the crime of Polynoveling with Insufficient Talent…”

When I feel like this, I turn to the writings of Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron with the same intensity as a backslidden sinner searching for salvation in the Gideon Bible of a cheap motel.  Usually I take comfort from their wise writings; on days like today, when my self pity has taken my better self captive, everything fuels the flames of my martyr pyre. 

“How come I can’t have friends like that?  Where are all of the writer people when I need them?”

The trouble is, I don’t have very many writer people.  In fact, I can count my writer friends on two fingers.  One of them, Trudy Morgan Cole, (see her blog at is very supportive and empathetic with all my writing angst.  She also lives in Newfoundland, which places her in a time zone exactly 4 hours and 30 minutes later than mine.  As if that’s not bad enough, she’s already published more than one novel and writes really, really fast, so there are times when talking to her only makes things worse.  Then there is Joe, (you can see his blog at who lives in the same time zone, but is only 19 and apparently has a social life, which means he’s not sitting around on a Sunday afternoon in order to tell me how wonderful my writing is.  He has also written more than any self respecting 19 year old should be capable of.

(I’d like to say that I’m really not the type to be jealous of the success of others, but I would obviously be lying and what would be the point?)

By this afternoon my fit of writing ineptitude had bled into the rest of my life, and I was convinced that I was a horrible parent, a terrible lover, and a failure at everything.  David, my long suffering, endlessly supportive but non-writing partner, patted me on the head, reminded me that he believes very much in my stories, and sent me off to write for the afternoon, no excuses accepted.

As it turns out, this is exactly what was needed and after a couple of hours of solid work I feel infinitely better about my writing and the world in general.  Still, I am looking for a way to expand my writing community.  When I am banging my head against the wall in an attempt to write a perfect synopsis, only to discover that this particular animal is as elusive as the Jabberwocky and every bit as dangerous to my psyche, I need to know that somebody else is battling the same demons. 

Which leads me to my request.  If you have figured out the perfect way to deal with the writing blues, or if you just want to share your own misery, leave me a comment.  Maybe we can help each other out.  Or maybe we can just provide each other with another writer to be jealous of.  But hey, I’ll take my motivation any way I can get it.


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