WIHM 2022: The Fear of the Fallow

Get your butt in the chair (BIC).

Treat writing like you’re going to work.

Write every day.

Write at the same time every day.

Write X number of words per day.


We writers have heard these sayings, and more, and they’re all valid ways to be productive as writers; to combat the dreaded writer’s block.

Except, are they really?

I mean, isn’t the whole point of creative undertakings is that they are creative?

And by creative, I mean that it’s not work. Not even remotely.

Creating should be fun. It should be more play than work. Therefore, writing is creative, and it should still be something you like to do even with the looming, gruesome spectres of editing and revising and rewriting hanging around.

(That wailing and groaning? That’s me during edits, not the spectres. Don’t blame them.)

I don’t know where this element came into it where writing had to be all serious and drudgy drudge chained-to-desk Misery. (Yes, I capitalized it on purpose. Want another one? Okay! “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”)

Have enough of us writers really missed the boredom of rote day jobs that we gotta turn writing into that too?

And that’s when I remembered something.

Something I want you to remember too.

I want you to remember back to a time in your life—it might have been when you were young—or a time when your imagination and spirit felt young. Where you not only dreamed, but believed in a world of things everyone may have told you was impossible. And I’m not just talking about sparkly unicorns (though, who doesn’t secretly love unicorns, even if you’re like me and it would be a cold day in hell before you admit it!) but monsters and vengeful ghosts and creatures with red eyes peeping in your windows and a million other creative-inspiration ideas floating around your brain-without-limits.

I’m going to call this the fallow time.

Because the secret to me writing a short story every day for almost two years (yes, really) and/or at least a chapter a day was that I was intuitively allowing myself plenty of fallow time.

And you can bet your stiff and achy BIC it had absolutely nothing to do with all the stuff I mentioned at the start of the post.

I simply dreamed. Doodled. Looked out the window at chirpy, cute little birds. Annoyed my sleeping cats because they looked even cuter. Took hot baths. Organized my files/my desk/my kitchen cabinets/my refrigerator. Made shopping lists. Went outside and hung out with the wild skunk and her family of baby skunkies. Did laundry. Let my mind wander at the day job so I was pretty much on autopilot (there’s perks to being “just a sub”). Wandered aimlessly through my own livespace. Took out a piece of paper and just scribbled ideas down in a big, messy spiderweb.

So, at risk of passing on more writer’s-block advice, that’s mine to share with you all.

Embrace the fallow time. Lay under a tree and stare up at the leaves waving in the wind. Build little fairy houses under that tree with fallen twigs and acorns. Daydream. Daydream some more.

Make makeshift dioramas of haunted houses or derelict buildings. Create loveably gruesome monsters out of clay.

And, above all, don’t forget to play. Even if it is with words—make them dance across the page.

(Just think how happy you’ll make your unicorn BFF with all that daydreamy magic floating around! It’ll sparkle for days!)

So, that’s it. Creativity doesn’t have to be complex. It’s just all this human-ating that thinks it has to be. And that’s where the shame starts. And the fear . . .

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