The Ebb and Flow of Writing: Part 1

Among the first items up for discussion when I am consulting with a new client, especially one who is a relative newcomer to the field of writing, are:

“I know that I’m supposed to write every day, but how do I maintain the momentum? How do I keep writing, even when I run out of ideas?”

The flow: All too often the assumption is made that writing is fundamentally a mechanical operation; that it can be controlled through discipline and willpower. Writing has a particular ebb and flow, and to assume that it is a controllable phenomenon would be akin to saying that one could control the ebb and flow of the tides.

The act of writing (creation/creativity) cannot be forced, nor can it be regulated in any customary manner. Writing (creation/creativity) does not tap resources in the physical world, but draws itself from the world of the brain and heart (mind and soul)—the Muse, if you will.

A good and wise friend, fellow writer and published author, David Evans, not long ago wrote me these words:

“So many (writers) want to write all the way through the first time, sign it and it is gone. However, the way I approach writing is to just get the thought down and move on. Move with the flow of thought (the story) as it presents itself in your mind, even if you misspell words, paragraphs are not sized etc. Don’t let the thought and flow get away. Mechanics are secondary.”

I could not have said it better. The act of creating could be called a “catching the dream” process. One in which the writer gets down on paper or notepad—or computer—those crystal thoughts, that, if not seized in the moment, fade away much like dreams.

Speaking of dreams, they, too, are sources of inspiration. The Muse, or Spirit or God, whatever title you choose for your Source, also speaks to the creator/writer from within the obscurity of sleep. Recognition of those creative gems does not come easy, but is well worth the time spent practicing remembering what was contained in those dreams.

The flip side—the ebb—of creative writing is that there will be times when it seems that nothing will come. This too is an important phase in the art of creation, since being a creative writer also requires rest and relaxation. Too often, we mistake those moments where we lack ideas as interruptions in our creative cycle, when in fact they are a necessary and vital component.

No engine, whether mental or physical, can run without replenishing its source of energy in some fashion. So too with the creative engine: when the physical world overpowers our senses, it seems our Source dries up or stops communicating. And this is where the misunderstanding about the “momentum” of the creative process lies.

The cycle of creation is non-stop. We see this in Nature, where the ebb and flow of the seasons and the cycle of birth and death, or the coming and going of the tides implies that there is always something going on behind the scenes whether we observe it or not.

So my answer to the two questions given earlier is this: If you simply accept the fact that creative momentum is always present, and that Source never stops providing inspiration—even if we don’t immediately recognize those resources—you will always be writing, even if just a few words a day. And being a creative writer is more about consistency than about discipline or momentum.