On Fallow Periods

A writer who doesn’t write: on fallow periods.


I’m not so writey at the moment. In fact, I’m staring at the cursor for this article, waiting for the right words to come. I’m in a bit of a creative fallow period right now – a miserable time where I spend more time scrolling through social media than clicking away at my laptop.

And I feel like a fucking failure.

Writers wrap a lot of their self worth up in their output.

Daily wordcount goals met with self-congratulatory twitter posts, #amwriting, #WIP. Look at me, I’m creating! I’m not hating on these things, I do them all myself. For me, they are a way to get sorely needed cheerleaders to support me when I actually get a thing done or make some progress, because it’s such a lonely slog. Please tell me I’m good, I’ve been working so hard, I’m suffering.

I’ve been going through a low creative ebb since I started taking medication for ADHD. My lightening-fast thoughts are gone, replaced with notions that come more slowly, measured. I still get ideas, not just ten million of them, with little ability to follow through. I’ve got follow-through now – but in the past few months, I’ve had little to follow through on. This is my reason, but there are lots of them for different people. That period after you finish one project and aren’t quite ready to move on to the next: fallow. When life outside writing doesn’t make it easy to get stuff on the page: fallow.

But I’ve always been told writers write every day! Listen, I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s not true. Writers write when they can. If that’s every day, then good for them. But there’s work and family and car accidents and sick pets and an endless array of things that get in the way. Me, I write four days a week, in a perfect world. I’ve got three days of double shifts at work where, even if I wanted to, I just don’t have the time to get words done. So there, there’s the secret – not all writers write every day.

DJ Older said, in this article: ‘Every writer has their rhythm. It seems basic, but clearly it must be said: There is no one way. Finding our path through the complex landscape of craft, process, and different versions of success is a deeply personal, often painful journey. It is a very real example of making the road by walking.’

Someone in my writing group can gnash out several thousand words in a session. My partner, Corey J White, dutifully works daily on his writes. Friends have folders full of ideas they just don’t have time to write yet. And here’s little old me, who never does more than a K in a day, who finishes a piece with no idea what’s coming next. ‘I’m the worst writer, look at these people, they are so productive and rad, I’ll never be like them.’

But there’s no point comparing myself to them. They work at their pace, I work at mine. I’ve got my rhythm and there’s no point in wishing and hoping that I was different, because this is how I work. I fly by the seat of my pants. I never know what’s coming next. So I need to take that, and work within it. I’ve got to learn to lean in and trust that I can write, really write, and just because I’m in a lull at the moment, doesn’t mean that it’s going to last forever.

One thought on “On Fallow Periods”

  1. Jen
     ·  Reply

    Writing is important, but living is research.. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

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