Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Dryness

(Submitted to a writing contest 1/13/05. I'm not dried out anymore, but I know it hits us all at one time or another. If you are stuck in the wastelands... You are not alone.)

I’m dried out. With the first novel finished, the novels that for months were pushing and shoving each other to get out of my head have somehow shriveled up. Where once my head was a veritable flood of writing—each whispering stream of characterization and babbling brook of imagery and roaring river of plot sweeping down the banks of my creativity—now there is only dust. Where once I could close my eyes each night to see towering cities with their gleaming skyscrapers and verdant forests with their sparkling pools, I now see only desolate plains and barren desert. It has all drifted away—crisp images made blurry like a mirage on the dunes.

I’ve edited and re-edited a thousand times—to get the juices flowing—but I’m dry. I’ve read and re-read a thousand articles and stories—to prime the pump—but the well is empty. I’ve begged my muse to quench me, but she only whispers softly in my ear—“I’m thirsty, too.”

On those arid days when she could not make the words flow, my favorite author played solitaire until her head began to fill up with the stories once more. I’ve played solitaire until my hands are numb, to no avail. My mind is still the baked clay of a desiccated riverbed. Other authors loosen up their constipated creativity by walking, but the high desert with its flat scrubby-ness only seems to suck my inspiration drier. Each little step in this Indian dance designed to bring back the fluidity of my craft, instead calls up a sandstorm of distraction.

I miss the flood when the first book rushed out of my hands and over the screen, pouring out each word from an endless pitcher. I miss the purposeful rush of scenes, like the gushing of a hose directed to make things grow. So I sit at my keyboard day after day typing just to hear the drips of my keys clicking—giving myself the illusion of rain while I try to find a crystal clear spring to tap.

I tell myself that this isn’t a drought. A drought is something that is brought on, and therefore ended, by something outside my control. This is only a dam. Somewhere along the streams and rivulets of my work, there is a blockage that I built and therefore have the means to destroy. When the dam finally breaks, there will be a deluge.

In the distance I can almost hear the steady trickle of it now.

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