When the Story Just Isn’t There

A writer sits down at her keyboard and stares at the blank screen. She prays. Her fingers hover over the letters, but the story just isn’t there.

It’s been that way for days. A sense of panic sets in. What if she can never find the words again? What if all the stories are gone?

I remember a very similar experience to this when I sat down to begin my second book A Great Catch. I called my friend and mentor Judy Miller and told her about the blank screen looming before me. “I’m afraid I can’t do it again.”

She laughed and said,”Yep, and it will only get worse.” Then she added, “Self-doubt is part of being a writer. It’s time for you to remember the stories are never yours. They belong to God. He’ll give you the story.”

I typed the words, “HELP ME. HELP ME. HELP ME.” I wrote a  whole paragraph of help me’s, before I felt a flicker of creativity. I captured the thought and quickly transferred it to my screen.

I don’t remember if I kept what I wrote that day–I sort of think I did–but I do remember the story God gave me flowing through me.

Faithful to complete it

So what can we do when the stories just don’t seem to come?

  1. Pray.  As in all things, turn the dry spell over to the Lord.
  2. Self-Care. Are you taking good care of yourself? Are you getting enough rest? Are you writing during your best time of the day?
  3. Feed your story craving. Read a book or binge on a Netflix show. Good stories feed the muse.
  4. Plot. Now, no booing. Honestly, if you know where a story is going, it’s much harder to hit a dry spell.
  5. Do something else creative. Whether it’s coloring a page in an adult coloring book, scrapbooking, or crafting, doing something creative engages the creative side of your brain. This could be the wake-up your mind needs.
  6. Breathe. The stories are still there. Phil. 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” Trust God, not yourself, to finish the story He put on your heart.

Now, it’s your turn. Have you hit any dry spells in your creativity? What did you do to get going again?

 

Published by

Lorna Seilstad

Lorna Seilstad brings history back to life using a generous dash of humor. She is the author of the Lake Manawa Summers Series and the Gregory Sisters Series. She and her husband have three children and call Iowa home. Find out more at www.lornaseilstad.com or connect with her on Facebook and on Twitter.

8 thoughts on “When the Story Just Isn’t There”

  1. Lorna, this SO speaks to me right now! I’m going through a creative slump right now, but I love all of your tips and advice. “Do something else creative” is basically what I did all during the Christmas season through cross-stitching gifts for friends and family. It helped me brainstorm some ideas to myself, and think of new plot lines. One more tip I would add is “brainstorm with friends.” Whenever I go, no matter if I come empty-handed or feeling good about my writing, I always come away brimming with ideas, whether for the current story or another one down the line!

    1. I like that brainstorming idea, Stephanie. I haven’t done that much with real people but me and my characters (and used to be a dog or two) have heated brainstorming sessions!

  2. These are great helpful hints, Lorna. I love the prayer one. For the longest time I didn’t think it was right to pray over my writing. I thought it was fine for everyone else…just didn’t feel worthy of it, I guess. But now I do pray and I find being really specific really help. I even pray over my pain levels and for inspiration to find the right time each day to work, or knew ways of working. And for patience. I need a lot of patience! 🙂

    1. I can understand why you felt it wasn’t right to pray for your writing, Kav, but I think we always need to remember the Psalm that says, “Delight yourselves in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” He already knows our heart’s desire. He put them there. He wants us to use our talents to glorify Him.

      I like that you now pray for specific things. That’s a great idea.

  3. Lorna, two things help me. One, going outside. Whether it’s taking an actual walk, or just sitting on the porch with a blanket and a cup of hot tea. Listening to the birds and the neighborhood noises seems to get me back in touch with the thoughts inside my head. The stories are still there, I just need to allow them to surface again. Second, when I can’t write what I want, I write something else. A blog, a Facebook post, or rambling in my journal. Soon, I become impatient to get back to my story.
    Great post. Love the “Help Me” part. Desperation leads to emotion, leads to a great story!

  4. One thing I did when I was just drawing a complete blank, was to go back and read what I had already written. Amazingly, I found that I still liked what I wrote, and it pulled me back into the story and helped me to go on! I have found that if I haven’t read my Bible that day, or prayed, it just doesn’t flow. We have the most gracious “muse” of all times – the Holy Spirit! Thanks, Lorna!

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