A writer who is published by my same publisher was recently lamenting a not-writing phase. In the comments I offered advice I’d read somewhere: sometimes a writer needs to “refill the well.”
I think this advice is sound. Because it makes sense in the context of what a writer does. A writer conveys experiences, recasting, retelling, creating wholly new, experiences for readers. But to detail in all the senses and richness for immersion, one must have them. This is not to say “write what you know” — ie. a go out and climb that mountain so you can tell your reader exactly what it smells, sounds, and feels like to do so.
Instead, I think it is encouragement to experience one’s own life fully. To be able to convey joy, once must experience joy. To be able to convey sadness, one must experience sadness. The same goes for exhaustion, achievement, anger, jealousy, confusion, injustice, justice, and more.
To write about anything effectively, you can’t just experience it. A writer is a teacher. You must completely comprehend not only the what, but the where, why, when, how, causes AND effects. You have to process it, too. You must live the experience and then spend the reflective time afterward to process it, to comprehend it from all angles, to divine it from all angles.
In order to have depth in your writing, you must live in the moment for a while, you must fill up your body with experiences to examine.
This is not only done by experiencing your own life, but also experiencing the lives of others. In other words: READ. Even better if you can read and then discuss. Just like having a friend or a lover to reflect on a trip’s events, having a reading friend to reflect on the events and themes in a book is part of the absorption process.
In short, when you feel your well of ideas is running dry, or the ideas you have are just not interesting you, absorb more life to refill your well. Go someplace new, do something new, or reexperience something from long ago to deepen your intimate and personal understanding of a time or place.
Halloween’s around the corner, so here’s a thought: costume yourself as a vampire and spend suck the marrow from life to extend your own.
Happy living, reading, and writing! And Happy October!
PS – I’ve been refilling my well of late, too. Follow me on Goodreads to see some of the reading I’ve done this year.
PPS – NaNoWriMo starts November 1. I’ve never been successful, and this will only be my second try in five years, but there’s no reason not to attempt it. However, if you are NaNo’ing this year, friend me on NaNoWriMo.org (LCZielinsky).