There Will Be Ebb

If you’ve done any kind of sustained creative work at all, you know that feeling when inspiration strikes and you ride the wave of powerful creative flow. It’s so thrilling!

You also know that eventually that wave crashes on the shore, and the water ebbs away. You find yourself sitting in the sand, wondering what just happened. That’s when you know that it’s time to put aside your project for a while and rest.

I’m convinced that what we call writer’s block is sometimes just the ebb tide of creativity (at other times it can manifest from our inner resistance, but that’s a topic for another day). Whether your creativity is part of your daily life or is something you dip into once in a while, that ebb can feel like abandonment.

Where’s the muse who kept you company in the wee hours? How are you supposed to forward this project when you have no idea where it’s going next? WTF, blank page?!

Dealing with the ebb tide of creativity – and there will be ebb – is hard. What can you do to get past it?

The key thing is to relax. Know that this is a normal part of the creative process. The muses haven’t abandoned you – they’re just off taking a walk.

Which is another good idea, actually – get out in nature and take a walk. Have a conversation with a friend that’s completely unrelated to your project. Watch Star Trek or Stranger Things or your favorite movie. Read a novel. Knit. Cook yourself a delicious meal.

Use your intuition to know when it’s time to return to your desk. Don’t force it. Perhaps the biggest secret of all is that the creative process is supposed to be fun. Yes, fun!

If the ebb tide seems to go on way too long, get some help. Think outside the box. Even professional writers (or artists, musicians, actors, you get the idea) need support from time to time, or with a particular project.

At the summer writing retreat I just led, one of the attendees was working on a Tarot book for a deck she’d created several years ago. She offered to do readings for the other participants on their books, to help her get back into the groove of using the cards. I’d been writing alongside the others, working on the intro to a self-help book I’m writing with BlackLion, and it was going smoothly.

But when she offered me a reading, I knew just what I wanted to use it for.

I hadn’t done any work on my second contemporary fantasy novel for about 3 months. Right at the very end, I’d gotten stuck – and the problem was my antagonist. All I knew was that this mysterious woman had been causing a lot of trouble for my troupe of heroes.

My client did a reading for this character, and it blew my mind! The ebb tide reversed, and now wave upon wave of ideas crashed onto the shores of my imagination. Seriously – I now not only know this character’s motivation, but there’s an entire back story, a new plot twist for this book, and fodder for books to come.

Thinking outside the box when you’re in the ebb tide shifts your perspective.

If you’re just entering the ebb, give yourself permission to take a break, recharge, and just BE. Yeah, I know, that can be hard for those of use raised with a Puritan work ethic. Do it anyway. You can even schedule in your relaxation on your calendar or to-do list, which helps the brain cope, because you get to check it off.

If the ebb tide seems to be dragging on, find a friend to bounce around ideas with. Try a different medium – sometimes when I’m stuck on a piece of writing, playing my drums or doodling in my art journal helps me shift. If you’re dying for one of those Tarot readings for writers, message me – my client and I are working on a collaboration to make them available at upcoming retreats!

The key thing to remember is that this too shall pass. The ocean of creativity, like the Earth’s seas, is always in motion. Trust that your inspiration will return.


Tell me what you think!