Sunday, May 18, 2014

When the well is dry

I love the clatter of the keyboard against the pads of my fingertips that sounds like rain on a tin roof. When I'm in the flow, the story gushes forth, like a torrential waterfall from a crevice in my imagination, pouring out almost effortlessly. I'm high on creative adrenaline.

But it isn't always that way. There are times when I begin to question myself, my artistic talent, my wordplay. That's when writing is hard. And the more I question myself as a writer, the more I allow doubt to rise in my chest and cripple my fingers. Everything I write sounds silted, forced, tired, and shallow. Fear opens wounds of unworthiness. Darkness gathers, and I feel I am a fraud.

In the old days, that is to say, in the days of my youth, when these feelings came over me, I'd shut down and sink into an abyss of depression. Now, however, I know these feelings aren't an indictment of my being an interloper. Instead, they are an indication that the well is dry.

The reality is, creativity needs nourishment just as the body needs food. When the well is dry, I need to take care of myself, nurture my creativity, let it drink from other streams of life.

Poetry feeds me. The way poets can turn a phrase helps unlock my mind to new possibilities. I delight in another's palate. Tasting, savoring Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, the Psalmists.

Nature satisfies me. Summer is approaching and seeds have burst, forming into tomato plants, yellow squash, peaches, watermelon. A mother dove made a nest in the eaves of the roof over our back porch. I've watched the babies hatch and grow until they could fly on their own and leave the nest for the trees in the backyard. Along with the red birds, the mockingbirds, and martens, they greet me with song in the mornings. The squirrel, who lives among the pecan trees, shares with the birds the grain in a bowl that my sweetie fills every day. The birds sneak water from the dogs' bowls when they're dozing in the shade or chasing the neighbor's cats.

I am packing for a week-long retreat in Comfort, TX, to steep myself in the philosophy of the Quakers, as shared by Parker Palmer, and open my writer's soul to renewal and wholeness. As Palmer writes: "It's time to slow down, do more with less, and listen to the rhythm."

My well is being filled.


What do you do when the well is dry?