Days of Flying, Days of Slogging: The Cycles of Creativity
Back when I was primarily writing short stories, I noticed that my creativity seemed to ebb and flow. There were periods when I couldn’t write fast enough, when I could barely tear myself away from the story I was working on to go to lunch with my husband, only to find myself in a restaurant, frantically scribbling yet more words on tiny, pocket notepads or on napkins or the backs of receipts and promising him “just a few more sentences.” I must have looked like a crazy person. Truth be told, I sometimes felt like a crazy person, possessed of something out of my control. But I loved every minute of it.
Then there were the other times, times when I would stare at the blank screen of the word processor like it was my nemesis, times when each word felt agonizing and wrong. There were times when I hated writing, wanted to do anything else but write. Scrubbing the toilets with a toothbrush? Sure. Sounds WAY better than writing. Those were days when I would just be happy to get a few sentences down on the page before I fell into an exhausted sleep.
And sometimes those times felt endless, like I would never enjoy creating again, never feel that rush of inspiration. It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas, and it wasn’t that I couldn’t put words on paper. It was just that I wasn’t feeling it.
Though I work mostly on books now, it’s still that way for me, with days of flying and days of slogging through thick mud. And I’ve heard that it’s also true for many other writers and creative sorts, that creativity comes in cycles.
But one thing I’ve found is that there are ways I can sort of speed up the switch from creative dry spell to creative fertility, sort of how you can force a bulb to grow into a flower out of season by creating the right environmental conditions.
For me, that involves showing up to the page every day whether I want to or not, and, even better, writing fast, so fast that I hardly have time to think about the words I'm writing. Part of it, I know, is getting out of my head and getting out of my own way, silencing the voices that are telling me I’m not good enough, that I’ll never be good enough. It’s giving myself permission to write crap. It’s giving myself permission to forget about the business side of it, the expectations, the possibilities. It’s giving myself permission to love this thing called writing again and knowing that in the most barren of the creative winters, spring is just around the corner.