On filling the writing well


It’s been a busy several weeks … busy several months, really … in ways that have little to do with writing. Except, of course, that everything has to do with writing, and everything affects it.

I’m not always graceful about admitting when it’s time to refill the writing well. The times when I’m most busy and stressed are the times when I feel like I should be getting more efficient, making sure I fill every moment with productive writing work. Except, of course, when the writing well–that space inside me where stories come from, whatever metaphor we use for it–is running dry, my time actually becomes less productive, not more.

But finally I’ve begun forcing myself to focus on what I know to be my well-filling things. Walking and running and swimming. A few yoga classes where I really force myself to focus on myself and my practice and where I am, and not just on the poses.

This weekend, an impromptu overnight camping trip, up on Mount Lemmon. Getting out of the city is one of my big well-filling things. Somehow, in worn jeans and an old T-shirt, surrounded by wilderness (even near-city wilderness that can be reached in less than an hour), with nothing to do but be, I remember who I am, in a deep way that’s hard to explain, and settle more comfortably back into my own skin.

And reading. Lots of reading. Whenever I’m feeling off, if I look at my reading journal, I’ll find I’m not reading enough. I brought a pile of books with me on our camping trip, and I spent much of the weekend inhaling story.

Did I have time for any of these things, right now? Not really. But last night, a stray opening sentence bubbled up, and I grabbed a piece of paper to write it down. This morning, a stray story idea. I did the same.

It’s not as if I have a shortage of story ideas or evocative sentences. But this random bubbling of ideas–of story finding me, rather than me pushing through the brambles and failing to find story–is the first sign that the well is starting to fill, that there’s something inside me again to put onto the page without fighting every step of the way. If it takes time to get to and hang onto that, well, it also seems to be something I can’t write without, not for long.

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