What to Do When the Well Runs Dry

The blank page.The curse of the blank page is an actual phenomenon. You, the writer, come to the page, and nothing pours forth from your head or hands. You stare at the blinking cursor, and it stares back at you. You feel yourself diminish underneath the weight of its gaze. Your ideas, already a trickle, stop altogether. Your well runs dry. You wonder if the source of water has been depleted entirely or if it’s time to move onto a new well. You wonder a lot of things when faced with the blank page and the blinking cursor.

What should you do in such a situation? First, don’t panic. The source of water is not gone. You do not need to find a dowsing rod. You do not need to seek a new well. Be calm. You are not the only one who has encountered the blank page. You are not alone in your plight. Other writers, present and past, have been in the same situation as you. They were able to write again. So will you. You may have to dig the well deeper, but you will find water again. You will find words.

Second, don’t cower beneath the glowering blank page or cursor. You may not have the words at this exact moment, but that does not mean you are a failure. Your career as a writer is not ruined. It simply means the words are not coming as easily as they usually do. You may have to wait for the words to come, but, in most cases, you’re going to have to fight for them. You will have to tell the blank page you have had enough of its baleful stare and begin to put words upon it. You will have to reclaim your territory, your well.

Third, revisit ideas. If you haven’t been saving your ideas, now is the time to begin. You must have a storehouse for the times when the well runs dry. You have to be prepared for droughts. If you do have a storehouse – and it can be an actual notebook or an application such as Evernote – visit it. See if one of the ideas stirs something in your mind. Even if they don’t, work with one of them. Turn it into an exercise of sorts. The practice and rhythm of writing will return you to yourself.

Finally, do something. If the words truly won’t come, still do something constructive. Do something you enjoy, such as baking or drawing. Read a book. Talk with a friend. Sometimes, doing something besides staring at a blank page or screen can cause condensation to form. Watch the condensation. Let it form into a drop of water, then follow that drop back to the well. As you do, the words will come, and your spirit will revive.

Photo: Brittney Marshall (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Comments

  1. I resort to eating. Or just not writing for a while. 
    In seriousness, deadlines make a big difference to me. Also, if someone else is paying me, my motivation is a lot higher than if I’m writing just to meet an arbitrary blogging schedule. (One look at my blog will tell you that I’ve never stuck to any schedule for long!)

    • barrettrossie Sometimes, you have to take a break. There’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t write poetry for almost a year and a half after I graduated from grad school. I had to force myself to write poetry again, but it was a necessary pressure.
      I think schedules are good for people new to blogging, but a blogger doesn’t have to stick to one once he or she is established through either an anchor of blog posts or an online reputation. I’m just a stickler for organization. I like schedules, so I keep one for myself. 🙂

  2. I agree with you. This post is truly inspiring.

  3. Pretty nice post.

  4. Thanks so much for the blog.Much thanks afresh
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  1. […] living and their livelihood often are essential to their creative pursuits. Without those things, their well runs dry. They encounter the blank page more and more […]

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