How Do You Write When the Well is Empty?

It’s no secret that it’s impossible to write when we have drained our creativity.

At least, it’s impossible to write well.

If you want to continue to turn out boring, boilerplate articles and stories, you don’t need creativity for that. Do a Google search on your topic, pick out interesting passages, and change the wording so it’s not plagiarism. Then add a clickbait title and publish.

I guarantee there are many “writers” doing it every day.

But, if you want to create something unique and remarkable, you need to pull from the well that is inside every one of us.

I started thinking about the well after I received a comment from Jessica Wildfire. Jessica is one of my favorite writers, and her words hold weight with me. My story was talking about how to get balance in your life and writing, and not burn out. She said:

“I think 1–2 solid posts a day is just fine. For me, trying to turn out multiple posts a day would completely drain my well. :)”

It got me thinking about the well that each one of us has. What comes from the well? Creativity and emotion. Ideas spring from the well. I realize that Jessica may have been talking about a different well, but by that time, my mind was on a different path.

After a writer decides on a topic, they sit down to write. They pull from the well and start putting characters on the page (unless you are creating crap like we talked about earlier).

It seems obvious that creative people have a deeper well than most, but the water inside isn’t infinite. If we aren’t careful, we can dry it out.

We can empty it.

How can you create when the well is dry?

It’s funny that I try to write this story today. Here I sit, trying to pour my ideas into this piece, and I find that my well is empty. There is only the muddy and bug-infested dregs to pull from. I’ve been pushing so hard the past few weeks that I never stopped to allow the water to refill.

But I don’t have the privilege of time to allow myself rest while the creative water replenishes. I need to produce and publish.

So how can I do it?

I’ve been sitting here for the past hour trying to come up with realistic ways to create without having any creativity of your own.

There is a way, but you may not like it.

Photo by Lorca Wiles on Unsplash

Beg, borrow, or steal

Without realizing what I’ve done, I practice this principle all the time. When I’m not feeling “it,” I start cruising through other people’s neighborhoods.

First, I hit my comments section. I found the idea for this article from Jessica’s comment (which is why I tagged her, to give credit where credit is due). Once the idea was sparked, it’s like a faucet turned on and fresh water spilled in.

As I write this, I can feel fresh ideas and concepts floating around, waiting for me to pluck them out and share them.

Sometimes, I see an idea on someone else’s lawn and think it would look good at my house. But before I do anything, I make the idea mine. I spin it and mold it. I throw it against the wall and see what sticks. I paint the idea so differently that it’s unrecognizable from my neighbors’ idea.

Photo by Evan Dvorkin on Unsplash

When you are publishing 2 to 3 articles and stories a day, it’s not realistic to think they will be completely unique. When I’m reading stories from my fellow writers, I am noting ideas, topics, and concepts. I am figuring out how I can approach the idea in a different way.

I know in some way, all of us in this community feed off one another. No one is an island unto themselves. Whether we are aware of it on not, we are being influenced by what we see and read. This isn’t a bad thing, because as the great Mark Twain said:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

Stealing is bad

Stealing is something you could absolutely do, but I find it so repugnant that I won’t even suggest it as a joke.

I feel so strongly about stealing, that if something even has a scent of dishonesty, I won’t do it — case in point. I got the idea to showcase 30 of my favorite writers on Medium. As I was doing research, I noticed that not an hour before, Shannon Ashley published a story with the exact same idea. The title I chose was identical. Many of the writers I picked were the same she picked.

It wasn’t an intentional thing, but it was too close. I still haven’t published the story. It sits in my drafts, collecting dust. I know enough time has passed, and I could easily change the title and the content, but the whole piece has a wrong feeling to it.

Do you get that way about ideas, or am I a weird egg?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I know I’m taking a bit far, but you should feel the same way about anything close to stealing.

We are creatives, and there are so many ideas out there that it’s unnecessary to steal from our peers. If you find you must steal, you shouldn’t be a creator. You should get a job at McDonald’s (not that there is anything wrong with that, but it’s something I doubt any of us would do unless necessary) because you don’t deserve to be a writer or artist.

Too harsh? I don’t care. If you outright steal, for whatever reason, you are trash.

I’ve seen people take blog posts, word-for-word, and post them on Medium. I’ve seen people have their Medium stories copied (even the images) and published under another name.

I find this so scummy and wrong. I find it such a shitty thing to do, that if something I do even remotely smells like stealing, I won’t do it.

There is a fine line between borrowing an idea and making it our own, and outright theft. As creatives, we walk that line every day. It’s in the job description, and most people I know do it very well. The people I call “writer friends” do borrow and share ideas but would never think of stealing outright.

Fill your well

While I was ranting about stealing, I got away from the point I was trying to make.

If your well is empty, borrow ideas. Drive around the Medium neighborhood or the blogosphere, grab the hose off their lawn, and fill up your reservoir. If your idea is even close to a fellow writers’ ideas, beg them to let you use the idea.

If inspired by someone else, tag them. If they aren’t on Medium, link to their article or comment. You don’t have to steal, because we all know that none of our ideas are unique in the least.

Don’t be afraid to beg and borrow, but never steal.

The well inside of us isn’t infinite, and if you find yours empty, do what you have to do to produce and publish. Creativity is a fickle thing, and sometimes, you have to find unique ways to water the pieces you create.

I did, and I think it turned out okay. Didn’t it?

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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in far-away destinations he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.

He would love to connect with you on social media.

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Introverted essayist and creator- I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up!

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