Have you ever had one of those grueling days when the river of creativity was so obstructed that you could count the literary drops that seeped through the cracks? I hate those days. It’s as if all my doubts, assumptions, and distractions have joined forces to build a damn, leaving me floundering in a dry and wordless riverbed.
On those days, everything that normally flows with ease has to be wrung in frustrating drips, which wouldn’t be so bad if those drops added up to a thimbleful of brilliance. But they rarely do. No, on those days, everything I see on the page is a massive disappointment. Fortunately, those days don’t happen often. But when they do, I have a few strategies.
I hit the mountain.
The physical activity exhausts my frustration. The fresh air clears my mind. The living beings that surround me, plant and animal, remind me that I am not alone in this world. Each step acts like a tiny tremor, unsettling the obstructions in my mind and opening new crevices for ideas to sneak through. At the very least, I return home feeling like I accomplished something!
I stop torturing myself and switch to a project that only requires a smidge of creativity.
Most people have tasks that may not be the highest priority but still need to get done. If I feel that my time is being wasted, struggling with a creative project, I attend to those tedious items so they won’t interrupt the creatively productive days that I hope to have in the future. Like… tomorrow!
And then there are those days when I just write—one grueling word at a time—until I have something, ANYTHING, on a page.
I am a disciplined person: I don’t wait for the muse to hit. I don’t insist on perfection. I know that anything, or everything, can be deleted and washed from my sight for all eternity if I choose.
So, I keep writing and embrace the process. When I feel frustration arise, I redirect it into satisfaction—about my discipline, not about the results.
I remind myself that struggle leads to growth and that the efforts of my day will be measured in my ever-evolving skill as a writer, not the quality of the words on the page.
And I do one more thing: I remind myself that tomorrow will be different.
A day of literary struggle is almost always followed by a day of ease. I know this because I’ve seen this pattern before—and not just in regards to writing. Magic happens when we sleep on it! Solutions manifest, new directions appear, emotions calm, and creativity replenishes. Because I know this, I am able to let go of the struggle at the end of a frustrating day. I can cozy up to a good meal and an engaging show and forget about it.
The next morning, after a cup of strong tea, I read what I left on the page. And guess what? There is always something of worth. Even if the prose is lousy, I find words and ideas that shock my creativity back to life.
And sometimes—if I’m very lucky—those literary drops really do add up to a thimble-full of brilliance.