When the River Runs Dry: The Art of Dancing Around Creative Dams

Every time, without fail.

I set myself up perfectly for the next Golden Age of Creation; I carved out the time for writing, I bought myself tons of new supplies to play with, I’m eating this new diet that’s scientifically proven to blast creativity out of my nose holes. The juices are flowing a veritable artsy deluge-splooge! And then…nothing.

When I hit this point, it doesn’t necessarily look like a lack of ideas. There’s plenty of material available, but there’s nothing behind it. The life that pushes it along, weaves it into something meaningful, is absent. To the undiscerning eye, it looks like I’ve lost motivation, but all the prime motivators are there. 

So, rather than smash my head into the dam over and over until either it, or my skull, gives way, I see what I can do to coax the flow out and around its obstacles. It’s a pretty roundabout process, and looks something like this:


Go for a walk somewhere new. Wander through a library and take home the book that is most exciting, interesting or frightening (it doesn’t matter much if I end up reading the whole thing). Devote a day to loving on myself. Doodle aimlessly. Clean out my closet, and definitely fall into those memorabilia rabbit holes. Window-shop my favorite store. Window-shop a store I absolutely would not shop from. Try a new craft. Make love (like, really). Get “lost” in the woods. Cook something without a recipe…

The idea here is to immerse myself in something other than my daily reality. I want to move from my normal waking consciousness into the world of the dreamer, where all of creation stirs between my fingertips. When I take the time to tend to the too-long neglected parts of myself – the parts of me that crave adventure and play – I augment my naturally creative self. Suddenly, making those new connections so necessary for creation is effortless. Hallelujah!

Not long ago, coming into a creative dry patch used to be devastating: famine, failure, and identity crises to boot. How would I ever support myself as an artist with such a fickle muse? Now, I understand she’s not fickle at all. She’s a lot bigger, more complex, and powerful than I had ever previously grasped, and requires my complete care and attention to do what she does best.

When one channel stops flowing, I listen for the water. I heed the call to quench new earth. It’s a guaranteed good time, every time.

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