5 Things to Do When You Find Yourself in the Creative Desert

Photo of pen and journalA short time ago, I wrote on my old writing blogs about my current journey through a creative desert and why it was no longer the fiery trial I’d once thought. The purpose was two-fold. I needed to come clean, lest you think my writing life was all sweetness and productivity (it isn’t).

I’m also pretty sure I’m not the only one who has experienced a creative desert and wanted to share something of my experience in order to encourage others.

Part of that is sharing the lessons I’ve learned during the sojourn. Namely, what I’ve done in my own personal creative desert. Today, I’d like to share five of those things, just in case you, too, might be in your own creative desert.

1. Don’t. Panic.

Take a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Relax. The creative desert isn’t the end of the world. It may be—and probably will be frustrating—but it may also be necessary. Let it unfold at it’s own pace.

This is tough. I spent years trying to force things with new ideas and new stories and even trying with all my creative might to resurrect old stories. Everything I did or tried made matters worse when it failed and I ended up more frustrated and more unproductive as a result.

Then I realized this might be a training period designed by God; something He’s using to set a stage for something new or to refresh my creative battery. Once I realized that, it was much easier to deal with.

This was the most important lesson I learned. It lifted a huge weight off my shoulders because it meant I didn’t have to break out of this thing on my own.

You may not believe in God to the same extent or maybe you don’t believe in God at all. Whether you do or you don’t is a personal decision. Even so, you may find comfort in the fact that you can’t break through all barriers on your own and that time may be necessary. Possibly a lot of it. Be patient.

2. Family Needs

I spent a good deal of time sitting with a cat suffering a sudden-onset food allergy. For days, we spent hours sitting together in an easy chair while he dealt with bouts of severe itching and I tried to comfort him out of scratching. There wasn’t much else to do in times like that. Once I came to terms with the idea that the door of creativity might have been purposely closed, I was able to devote time to Thomas without fretting over what wasn’t getting done.

Even if the family needs aren’t health-related, creative desert-time might be the ideal time to give more time to family and friends.

3. Special Projects

There are still creative things to be done, even when the writing well has gone dry. I had freelance articles and blog posts to write. Neither of those areas were affected by the desert. With no time given to writing fiction, I took more time with freelance articles and blog posts. After a while, I even got a few written ahead.

You probably have other creative outlets you’ve neglected, too. Now may be the time to give them attention.

4. Read

2015-03-16 eReader (2)I went on a major reading binge. From December 2014 through mid-January, I read nearly a dozen Agatha Christie novels, focusing on Hercule Poirot mysteries. I even made a list of all her titles in order of publication and started to work my way through the Poirot novels starting with the first one.

As one of two church librarians, I also read books being considered for the church library. I read Beverly Lewis, Janette Oke, and a collection of other books from a variety of sources.

If you can’t write your own stories, read someone else’s. It’s the perfect time to read for pleasure and to soak up good writing. Everything you read contributes to your writing, so make use of the down time to recharge and refuel.

5. Idle Time

Hyde Park, LondonI caught cold the second week in January and spent two weeks battling the symptoms. After it ran it’s course—as most colds do—I came down with the flu bug. More lost time.

But this time, I didn’t worry about lost productivity. I spent some of that time reading and some of it sitting with Thomas, but I also spent some of it just sitting in a chair daydreaming.

Or napping. Both were beneficial.


Don’t let being in a creative desert get you down.

And don’t think it’s the end of everything because it probably won’t be. The secret is finding ways to recharge, refresh, and relax and—yes—pass the time. If you can do that, sooner or later, the rains will come and the desert time will end.

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