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.

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

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