Filling Up the Well

Surrounding Ourselves with Story

Hello, writers. How is your summer of words going? Have you been busily churning out a thousand words a day, finishing your novel, or editing new stories? Are you dreaming up new stories and worlds?

Maybe the last month hasn’t gone quite as planned. Maybe the words have come slowly or not at all; maybe you feel your creativity is on some kind of slow drip and there’s a blockage in the tube somewhere. I always make ambitious plans for the summer, based on the increase I have in free time, and I always forget how everything, even my own ideas, slow down in this time.

The important thing is to let the well fill back up on its own. And to help the process along by 1) Surrounding myself with good stories and 2) showing up for the work. I’m reading more, finishing charming and touching and challenging and strange works. I recommend Melissa Scholes Young’s FLOOD for one, and Susan Choi’s TRUST EXERCISE (you’ll hear me talk about both on future episodes of the podcast). I’m also enjoying the very calm, quietly character-driven tv show DETECTORISTS, about metal detecting enthusiasts and their very niche subculture. The characters are honestly and specifically drawn, and it gets me thinking about how to create characters of my own.

And speaking of the podcast, it’s been a great month for prompts and conversations. I talked about how to scene-ify your story; betraying someone in your fiction; how to actually value your work and organize it accordingly; how to build the beats of your story; and I had a great conversation with novelist Arif Anwar about his favorite tips for productivity.

So if you’re on a beach somewhere with a great book, or catching up on sleep, or working as hard as ever, and the words just aren’t coming the way you’d like — don’t worry. Don’t fear. Remember to surround yourself with good stories; that time in the company of stories is never wasted. And something you’ve read will spark something in you.

Three things to do during your writing time this week:

  • Open a notebook you haven’t used before, one of those beautiful ones someone gave you that you have yet to actually write in. Sit with it for five minutes, then freewrite for ten minutes.

  • Write one outrageous thing your current story character could do.

  • Have your character say one true, unfiltered thing in your story.