AdministratorDecember 23, 2020 at 12:58 am
Something one of our members posted recently reminded me of a topic that many writers talk about. What happens when you run out of inspiration, when your creative spirit seems to have shriveled up and gone hibernating for the foreseeable future. Are you meant to pack your bags and take up ice-fishing? Are you supposed to “push through”, whatever that means? Hit your head against the wall? Foam at the mouth?
It’s a good question, especially because it’s something that nearly every writer will struggle with. Before I give my take on it, I’d like to hear yours, ladies. Give us two sides of the story: 1)what do you do when you hit a creative wall, and 2)what do you think would be more IDEAL to do instead?
MemberDecember 23, 2020 at 11:28 pm
I would say to give it another try right then, probably another 5 minutes. If you’re still struggling to produce, I’d say to take a break, take a refresher, and come back to it. I find that it gives me the space to create and write more because I’m not “in it,” or overcome by it.
MemberDecember 27, 2020 at 7:25 am
I think of the concept of “Yimei Ahava and Yimei Sina” when I think of this question. It’s a common cycle in all areas of life, relationships, seasons, interests etc. that we feel inspired when we start something and the inspiration wanes and it’s up to us to hold onto that spark that inspired us to keep us going in our venture. The point during the ‘Yimei Sina’ is not to give up and realize that underneath the surface our dream is being nurtured (like the soil in the winter is being strengthened). Sometimes it means letting ourselves not accomplish as much and being okay with it. Sometimes it means pushing a little more but lowering our expectations. And it always means remembering that this is a cycle and the yimei ahava will come back again with another spark of inspiration.
This is why I personally wouldn’t want to write creatively as a profession and why many creative writers do copywriting or other types of writing on the side. Inspiration waxes and wanes. Sometimes I literally feel like I’m getting these signals and a story or piece comes to me. Other times everything is dull and bleak. I think it has a lot to do with my own internal cycle of yimei ahava and sina.
One thing I recommend is ‘bottling up’ the inspiration you had when you started that project somehow–like we learn from Shir Hashirim that you need to make a kli for your inspiration otherwise when it fades there will be nothing left of it. Maybe it means writing down a paragraph why this writing project is important to you and why it inspires you that you can pull out on a bad day.
Remember during the yimei sina that your story or writing project is being nurtured underneath the surface and you’ll soon have that spark of clarity that will push your story or writing project to the next level.
If you’re having a dry spell between projects, also have faith that your next spark of inspiration to propel your next project WILL come if you don’t stress about it and let the yimei sina pass naturally.
Hatzlacha all! Great question! Looking forward to more wisdom from fellow writers!
AdministratorDecember 29, 2020 at 11:42 pm
Very interesting perspective, @Elisheva Halle! Thank you for sharing.
I’m curious what you mean by “yimei ahava and yimei sina”? I’ve never heard of those expressions before.
AdministratorDecember 31, 2020 at 10:29 am
Thank you for clarifying. I see that the author in this article is introducing a very deep Kabbalistic concept in a relatively offhand way, without really explaining it properly. I just wanted to point this out because the wording itself is extreme, especially in the context of Torah hashkafah, and I would hesitate to make this a mainstream idea although it obviously speaks to you.
MemberJanuary 1, 2021 at 1:20 am
I remember learning about this concept in seminary (Machon Raaya) and have heard this mentioned in shiurim and various hashkafa books and I didn’t realize it wasn’t a mainstream idea. Also, I don’t understand what you mean that the author of this article’s wording is extreme. I know I can definitely relate to this. Sometimes, for example, I’m all inspired and davening comes easy and other days you just don’t feel the connection. His main point is to realize that just because you don’t feel it, it is only a phase and the deep, inner connection is still there. This is great chizuk for writers! Just because you have days when you are uninspired and nothing is coming out of your pen, that doesn’t mean that you lost your writer touch. It’s just a part of a normal cycle of inspiration fading and gaining momentum. What to do during the time it fades? Take a break, push yourself a little but don’t be too hard on yourself, etc. But by all means, don’t throw in the towel and say that you’re not a writer and you just don’t have it in you anymore!
AdministratorJanuary 1, 2021 at 7:22 am
I just want to clarify here what I meant by my comment, @Elisheva Halle. I, personally, have never heard of this concept before, and I got a pretty solid Torah education, but I don’t want to cast aspersions on anything you learned in seminary, chas v’shalom! What concerned me about the words “yemei ha’sinah” is how they would jive with our belief in Hashem’s perpetual, infinite love, and also I was worried that they were perhaps alluding to the taharas ha’mishpacha cycle, which would definitely give over an incorrect impression. I did some google searches and I’m still not finding anything on this concept, but happy to learn more about it if you have anything to share. I did note, though, that even in the Aish article you sent, the author himself acknowledges that the wording is extreme (I meant that the words “yemei ha’sinah” are extreme, if that was unclear…)
Of course there is a natural ebb and flow–it is a part of Tevah that Hashem has instilled in many aspects of life. We wake, we sleep; we have 6 days of craziness and then sublime rest. Especially in the creative process, there is that productivity and then the quiet after the storm. Sustaining creativity is harder for some people than others, but for sure all creatives experience this dry spell and I believe the best way to deal with it is to embrace it instead of trying to fight it kicking and screaming, which is sort of similar to what it sounds like you’re describing. Certainly, we cannot judge ourselves or the quality of our lives by either the ups or the downs; our worthiness, our connection with Hashem, and our life’s mission remain unchanged during periods of great productivity as well as when we’re down and out.
MemberJanuary 3, 2021 at 3:22 am
I hear what you mean that the wording ‘Yimei Sina’ sounds extreme (although I wasn’t the one who coined the term!) but it reminds me of the pasuk that says that Leah was the hated wife. Did Yaakov really hate Leah? Of course not! but that was how she felt since yaakov’s love for Rochel was so much more. I think it’s the same here. During the Yimei Ahava, the world feels rosey and we are flying. But this makes us feel the disconnect during the ‘Yimei Sina’ even more. It doesn’t mean that Hashem actually hates us- but we might feel that way due to the contrast with the Yimei Ahava.
I don’t recall the source for this topic, but maybe I’ll ask my husband and see if I can find it.
AdministratorJanuary 3, 2021 at 9:34 am
Well, @Elisheva Halle, you were right there at my Shabbos table this week (hope you enjoyed the food! :-)), when I polled people on their familiarity with the “yemei ha’ahava v’yemei ha’sinah”. Interestingly enough, my husband, who is a tremendous talmid chacham, had never heard of it. But my son-in-law, who is a talmid chacham in his own right, immediately told me that he had heard about it and he thinks the concept is discussed in the Sefer HaYashar of Rabbeinu Tam. He had heard of the concept in the same context as you–the “good days”, when the sun is shining and everything’s going your way, and the “hard days”, when everything looks bleak and you just can’t seem to push yourself forward.
MemberJanuary 4, 2021 at 1:32 am
This is so funny- and amazing Hashgacha Pratis, but I actually bought Yocheved Rottenberg’s book ‘Write your Way Home’ today and she talks about this concept “Days of Love and Days of Hate” in the chapter titled “Inspiration” and she says that Rabbi Wolbe talks about this in his book Alei Shur. Amazing!!
MemberJanuary 4, 2021 at 1:50 am
Breaking in over here, Elisheva and Riva. I actually think the עלי שור brings down this concept based on רבינו תם.
AdministratorJanuary 4, 2021 at 11:24 am
Thanks, Anagrammer–looks like we all “jinxed”! 🙂
MemberDecember 29, 2020 at 3:41 pm
Taking up ice-fishing…!!!
Riva, perhaps you can recommend some suitable areas for that 🤣⛷. Or, better yet, sunny-something-sport recommendations will be more appreciated during this chilly season I believe.
How about instead of freezing your toes off, consider this: Explore why you’re feeling that you hit a creative wall. I have this many times in a different kind of way. Like I come up with many ideas, but when it comes to executing them, I shrink into myself. I have found that fear causes me to bottle up my stories inside. Now fear is a very broad term, and that prompts me to evaluate what I am fearful about. Does the story reflect personal aspects in my life I don’t want to face yet? Do one of my characters resemble someone real in my life and that makes me squirmingly uncomfortable?
Whatever the case, I never push myself. Instead, I trick myself into adopting the following mindset: Writing down a couple of sentences won’t kill me. I don’t have to show what I’ve written to anyone. Once I get over my resistant hump, things tend to get easier for me.
AdministratorDecember 29, 2020 at 11:45 pm
Ice-fishing is definitely a top choice. In fact, whale blubber has been found to be a wonderful creative muse, I hear. Personally, I’m vegan 😂.
Love the advice, @Fiction Fangirl. And wonderful to see you here today, mukluks and all. Slaying fear and especially negative self-talk is just one of the heroic feats we writers perform on a regular basis.
MemberJanuary 3, 2021 at 11:43 pm
Ah, the downsides of being vegan: Having to pass on the luxury of whale blubber. Alas! 😂
How do you personally squash your inner (and outer) critic? Also, by now, I am extremely curious to hear your take on pushing through a dry spell. Considering you’re currently writing a serial in the Ami Living every week, how do you avoid running dry during and after the project?
MemberJanuary 4, 2021 at 1:45 am
@Fiction Fangirl I’m wondering about this too.
AdministratorJanuary 4, 2021 at 11:51 am
Your question is a good one, @Fiction Fangirl . Writing professionally, especially when you must deliver creative content week after week, is its own challenge where the “option” of a dry spell simply does not exist! Scary stuff, I can tell you that much! That doesn’t mean that my inspiration doesn’t run dry, because it does, at times. It just means that I NEED to power through, on a wing and a LOT of prayer, and come up with something no matter what.
How do I do it (aside from the wing and the huge prayer)? Well, first I do a ton of heavy-duty, um, procratinating. Yup, once that’s ticked off the list and there’s no more denying the fact that the deadline still exists, I start SOMEwhere. Even if I don’t have it all figured out, I will dive in and start writing. Then, after I’ve written all I can, I’ll go over and polish it up and find the lame or rough spots. After that, I’ll turn the piece over in my mind to think of a creative, interesting angle or, in the case of my serials, cliffhanger. There is, of course, an enormous amount of siyata diShmaya involved.
PS. We can always meet up for a chickpea lentil tofu mock-whale entree, y’know…
MemberJanuary 6, 2021 at 7:01 pm
Chickpea lentil tofu mock-whale entree sounds like a delicacy I would agree to meet up for! Not to sound totally fangirly now (Oh who am I kidding, I’m a total fangirl :), I really admire your perspective on writing. I personally get agitated when I procrastinate things, probably due to a fear of failure. It’s so cool that you can stay calm and creatively collected under pressure! Probably related to the tofu-whale-loving quality I do not possess at this given time 🤣
MemberDecember 30, 2020 at 2:38 am
To be honest, I would probably let go, not write, for however long that entails. And it could take months. This is an unpopular opinion I know but I’m a big believer in focusing on what you need in the moment. Sometimes writing just isn’t it. Sometimes it’s ice fishing. Sometimes it’s traveling. Sometimes it is an ice cream cone. Sometimes it’s putting it aside for a degree or because you want to start a family. If you really love to write, it will come back to you. Sometimes a break is necessary. I try not to force it, unless I am already writing and then I push myself. Hard. But I never get angry if I can’t for a moment big or small. When I get back to it those moments weave through my writing anyways to make up for lost time. So I really loose nothing.
MemberDecember 30, 2020 at 4:19 am
I love this, Rochel! So so true.
It’s about being effective and knowing what needs to be done in that moment.
And like Fiction Fangirl said about not pushing yourself and all the other comments- – very true and very real! I probably wouldn’t be able to write consistently for that reason.
AdministratorDecember 31, 2020 at 10:31 am
Loved your input, @Rochel Solomon , and I’m not sure why you think your opinion is unpopular. I totally agree with you! There are times that it’s best to put things away for later, where “powering through” is just not the healthy, successful option. There is a right time for everything. And as you say, “putting things away for later” doesn’t really exist because as the writer moves through life s/he acquires so much wisdom and creativity and inspiration that s/he is actually contributing to that piece all along!
MemberJanuary 4, 2021 at 1:46 am
@rochelsolomon I totally agree with you.
Sometimes life circumstances can hold your creativity back. There’s no use trying to push through it or beat yourself up about it. Just wait for it to pass…
MemberJanuary 4, 2021 at 1:55 am
I agree, Rochel. And it seems it’s a more popular opinion than you believe. 🙂
Forced writing makes for forced reading. It just doesn’t flow nearly as well, and it ends up having to be completely reworked, rewritten, or tossed. And it also doesn’t feel too good.
MemberJanuary 5, 2021 at 2:04 am
I decided not to reply upthread since I’d be replying to something from last week.
I’ve heard the concept of yemei hasina and yemei ahava. I’ve heard it attributed to Rav Hutner; it’s a famous letter he wrote to a talmid.
There is something reassuring to know we’re normal, and not on uncharted territory.
Log in to reply.