Writing Flows and Ebbs

November 28, 2018

“And creativity is the same, where 90 percent of the work is quite tedious. And if you can stick through those parts, not rush through the experiences of life that have the most possibility of transforming you, but to stay with it until the moment of transformation comes, and then through that to the other side, then very interesting things will start to happen within very boring frameworks.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Back in July I wrote about discouragement and how to move past it. This week I want to talk about ebbing and the Creative Blahs.

90% Tedious?

I love the above quote from Elizabeth Gilbert. It was taken from an interview and a rendition of it is in her fabulous book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Why do I love it? Because it made me look at my creative experience differently, especially this: “…not rush through the experiences of life that have the most possibility of transforming you.”

First, the Flow

I was incredibly creative and productive in September and October. I was writing and revising my YA like crazy to get it to my group and it was fun and challenging. I also had two picture books that I was cruising away on, both of which felt submission-ready. One was, so after some tweaking, it went out on submission about a month ago. My agent just sent me notes on the other one.

During this incredible stretch, I consciously enjoyed the creative high and took advantage of it because I knew it wouldn’t last. It couldn’t. And not because I’m a pessimist. Because that’s the way our brains and hearts work.

There are ups and there are downs.

There are sprints and marathons.

There is the Flow, which I was in for nearly two months before the inevitable—


The ebb pulls back. The ebb feels like creative crashing after a flow high. And that’s where I was after I sent my YA to my critique group. I was ebbing. No creative juices flowing. No riding high in the zone.

I started one project, set it aside. Picked up another, work for awhile, set it aside. I felt…blah creatively.

But that point about “experiences of life”—that captured me. Because I think sometimes I can feel compelled to push through, to “just keep writing even if it’s crap.” And I do believe in doing that, especially when I’m working on something that I know, on some level—even if I don’t feel it in the moment—is a project that needs to be written.

But not always.

Sometimes I have to ebb, to move away, and just let things be. Let myself be.

Just live for awhile and see how that transforms me as a human and may transform my work.

So I ebbed. Until I received feedback on my YA from my group on November 16. Then it was flow by necessity! I’ve spent the last two weeks revising like a madwoman because I want to get it in shape for my agent by the first week fo December and I’m having a blast. It’s invigorating.

I wonder what will happen after I send the YA off—will I be flowing or ebbing?

We shall see.