Saturday, November 28, 2009

Be Still

For the last few months my creativity has been alarmingly low. I haven’t come up with any new book ideas. I haven’t worked on any of the active projects I already have. I’d do just about anything to avoid writing. That’s not me. I felt as if I’d lost a crucial part of myself, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it back.

Finally, in a fit of waving the white flag I started going back through some of my favorite writing books, trying to figure out what I needed to do to get it together. I think I found the answer in one simple phrase I ran across.

Stop reading.

Now, that can’t be right, can it? How could an author advise another author to stop reading? Isn’t that supposed to be “read everything you can get your hands on?”

Well, yes and no. The author’s point was you can’t expect to find your own voice, your own words and magic, when your head is full of everybody elses. When you are actively writing, he suggests putting other books aside so yours has more room to grow.

That got me thinking about my own life. Like most writers, I’m an avid reader. I read constantly, but it’s more than that. I keep a stack of books by my bed, on the kitchen table, by the couch, and one in my purse. I listen to audio books in the car, while I clean house and while I take my morning walk. On any given day I can be “reading” as many as 7 different books. Was it any wonder, then, that I didn’t have room for my own words?

Then, I really started thinking. Was it just the books? No. I couldn’t remember a time in months that I hadn’t been multitasking and filling my time with “stuff” of all sorts. All very important “stuff” to be sure, but I know myself better than that. I need quiet time to myself, yet it’s always the first thing to go and the first thing I’ll feel guilty about when I let myself take it. But, that stillness, that quiet and peace are the very core of my creativity.

We live in such a crazy world. There will always be more to do, more to say, more to think, more to read, more to write than we could possibly squeeze in. Yet we continue to try. We know we want to write. We scramble for those few free moments. We learn to write with the kids coming to blows in the next room. And, we drain our creative wells, then wonder what happened.

Remember, part of nurturing the creative gift that God has given you is not only the act of writing, but respecting where the creativity comes from. Take time to be still. The next time you have a few moments, stop yourself from running directly to the computer. Step back and find some peace first. Get rid of the rest of the worries and concerns and other books you’re reading. Take a moment to read and ponder a scripture. Pray. Meditate. Do yoga. Take a shower. Yes, staring out the window at nothing is a very important part of the writing process.

Bring your mind back to a state of harmony and peace. Be still and let your creativity know it is welcomed and valued. Then go to your computer and do what your heart longs to do with joy rather than dread.


  1. Thanks for this post. I've been having exactly the same problem. I needed the reminder to stop and just do nothing sometimes.

  2. Alison, thank you so much for this post. I have been dealing with the same struggle. Every writer's situation is different than every other writer's, and everyone can come up with different reasons why the creative juices are not flowing, but you hit the nail on the head when you said that it comes down to Being Still. Taking time to let one's mind empty, to not worry and ruminate about things, but to simply Be Still, will help so very much.

    I strongly believe there are reasons why God gives us the gifts he gives us. And He wouldn't give us gifts if He didn't also provide a way for us to use them.

  3. I'm so glad it was helpful for you! Good luck and happy stillness and writing to all. :)

  4. This was exactly what I needed to be reminded of--thanks for the great insight!