Memory Catcher

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Creativity and the Importance of "In-Between" Times

Show up, even in fallow times, to keep your creative muscles toned.

I’ve gone through periods where my writing pours out, rich and lively, and other times when my writing seems wooden. But even in the dry periods, I show up. While my material is composting, I keep my writing muscles toned, so I'm “in shape” when the material is ready to be written. Sometimes my writing commitment to myself is ten minutes a day; sometimes it is a half hour or an hour three times a week. That means I sit with pen and paper or in front of my computer for the designated time and wait to see what happens.

I remember the day I walked past the fields at Green Gulch Farm, a retreat center in Marin County. Just a few weeks earlier, the fields had been lush with rainbow chard and dinosaur kale, and now I saw nothing more than neatly plowed rows of earth. What a perfect metaphor for writing, I thought. Writing, too, has fallow times. I cannot force creativity to come; I can only show up and be willing.

An artist friend writes similarly about the days she spent sitting in front of a blank canvas, waiting for inspiration. Nothing came, and still she sat. And then, one day, she picked up her brush and created a work of art.

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Another friend, an American gardener who has moved to Italy, reflected on her fallow times. “I am a firm believer that if I don’t pull within, way, way in, in the winter, it will be harder to be expansive in the spring.”

I am willing to live in the void, trusting that from this “in between” place of rest and gestation eventually something will come. But even in those fallow times, I show up for my writing. I use prompts that spring to mind from my daily life or prompts that call on my senses, like “Mindful eating” or “My favorite season.” Using the senses, I am never at a loss for material. Eventually the dam breaks and the writing flows again.

Try this writing prompt: Sometimes I need to rest.

Copyright © 2013 by Laura Deutsch

 

Laura Deutsch is a San Francisco-based writer. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and More magazine, among others.

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