Letting your field lie fallow..

Sometimes I like to think of writing in farming terms. It helps to think of the act as
something less ethereal (forget the muse) and something more grounded and concrete (our hands digging over and over again in the dirt). This comparison to manual labor works on a number of different levels, but especially when I think about the big picture of writing. Farm work is, for the most part around here, seasonal work. It is not something that can be sustained year-round. The weather doesn’t allow it, for one,
and the earth—well, the earth, like all things, need to rest and be replenished.

This isn’t just symbolic talk. The earth literally needs to lie fallow at times so that the
organic matter in the soil—all that carbon responsible for producing living
things—can restore itself. Too much planting and the soil gets depleted and can’t grow anything. Overworked land, like overworked writers, can dry out and be good for pretty much nothing.

The good news is that there are solutions to this: both in farming and in writing. Cover crops. Less tilling. Composting… And, sometimes, letting a field lie fallow…

Ok, so maybe I’m taking the metaphor too far; but we as writers can restore our productivity, too, when it feels like we don’t have anything left to give.  Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your writing is to take some time to rest and prep the soil, so to speak: go for a long walk, listen to music, talk with another writer friend, go to a reading or see a great film.  Or read!  Reading has always been pleasurable for me, but it’s also a great source of inspiration. It’s pretty much impossible for me to read something that I love and not have my brain start working in the background, trying to figure out how a similar thread or theme might work in my book, too.  Often, I keep a journal of inspirational quotes and ideas from my reading–jotting down lines I love, or notes for things I’d like to try in my own work…

All of these can be effective ways to restore a state of fullness and balance.  It helps to be patient, too, and to remember that the ‘dry’ periods in your writing are necessary and are never wasted, if you use them as opportunities to replenish your creativity.


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