What to Write When the (Ink) Well is Dry.

That is where I am right now.

Oh, sure, I’m writing every day: checks to pay bills, answers to emails and texts, posts on Facebook and Instagram, birthday cards to put in the mail that day, a grocery list, a “to do” list, a note to Hubby about an errand I need to do and when I’ll be back.

But creative writing? Um, no. Unless you count a quick book review I pound out in fifteen minutes, knowing that unless I do it today, it will be late, and then I’ll feel awful. Too bad I only skimmed the last two chapters… but you don’t mention how books end anyway, do you? And then I still felt awful, because I’ve always determined to finish a book – every word – before writing a review. Boo-hoo.

Oh, I do write curriculum for my third (used to be fourth) to sixth grade class* at church every week. That can be fun. The delivery can be somewhat creative, but not the text of course. It’s the Bible, after all.

In one point in last week’s lesson I was teaching how that precious Word of God is called “the sword of the Spirit” in the Bible. “Sharper than any two-edged sword, able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I’d been teaching them the first sermon preached by Peter, the fisherman-turned-apostle, when I came to its conclusion. (It’s a doozy!) I pictured a duel between forces of good and evil, raised my imaginary sword and did a bit of fencing (pantomime, of course), ending up with my opponent on the floor, my sword tip on his chest. The phrase “coup de grace” came to my mind, and still holding my imaginary position with opponent pinned down, explained the French phrase. “The final blow,” I said, looking at the fifteen kids slowly. “The thrust that pierces the heart,” I said. And then I jabbed my sword right to the floor… holding for a few seconds before looking up. Then I jerked it free, held it high, then slipped it into my imaginary sheath at my left hip.

There was quietness for a few seconds, then I had the kids read verse 37 of Acts chapter 2, which was the response of the crowd to the strong finish of Peter’s sermon. It reads, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” Peter’s inspired use of Scripture had brought instant conviction.

But that was “creative” thinking and teaching, not writing. So what do you do when your ink well is dry?

  1. Read in the genre you want to write. Read for pleasure (maybe even some old favorites). Read those authors who inspire you. Read, read, read.
  2. Go online to the sites that list daily (a month at a time) story prompts or story ideas. Here’s one I sometimes use. (Click farther on the site for other ideas.) https://mailchi.mp/writerswrite/daily-writing-links-29-september-2020?e=befa474c79
  3. Start (or start up again) a daily or weekly journal. I have to admit that when we returned from our (fantastic) cruise and a week later faced the monster that became Covid-19, I quit journaling. (Crazy huh? What a “ripe” season of lockdowns, scary bar graphs, no one working, everything closed, ghost freeways, that I could have used in stories. Sigh!) Well, it’s not too late. Maybe begin with a “to do” list, and comment on your doings and feelings during that day. Or… you choose.
  4. Study books by writers that give instruction. A few weeks ago we had Sara Rosett as a guest blogger. She wrote about she used lots of things for Research in her historical mysteries. But she also mentioned a couple “How To ” books she has written. “How To Outline A Cozy Mystery” and “How to Write a Series.” Both are easily found on Amazon. (I recently bought them both and am eager to dig in, for at least a chapter a day.) Look for books on short story writing by our own The Writers In Residence, G. B. Pool.
  5. Take note of those weird dreams. Hey, maybe your creative muse is locked down inside your head, and wants to safely, with some social distancing via dreams, give your mind some help.
  6. Look at a calendar. Upcoming holidays are always good for getting the juices or muses working. Think back to fond memories. Think forward with some Sci-Fi or Fantasy weirdness. Let the seasons inspire.

Do whatever it takes, even acting out some scenes from your favorite book in front of your spouse, dog or cat, or the mirror. The movements, actions, even words may lead to some nice black… or maybe purple… INK in your writing well.


*I used to teach a class of 4th to 6th graders, but now that all must wear a face covering in class, I have inherited the 3rd graders as well. (They used to be together with 1st and 2nd grade.) According to the “order,” all students in 3rd grade and up must wear masks etc. Second grade and below do not have to. The Children’s Ministry leader felt it would be hard on some in a class that have to wear them while others didn’t. But, on the fun side, I’ve discovered that those third graders are pretty sharp too and I only need a little tweaking of the lesson that I prepare for the older kids. (PS: I wear a face shield, so the kids can see me better.)

Author: Jackie Houchin

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

15 thoughts on “What to Write When the (Ink) Well is Dry.”

  1. Jackie, those creative thoughts and teaching you’ve generated will never leave you, so they may well end up on a page. I’ve been keeping a pandemic Journal since April. It’s a good way to keep track of the days and weeks that seem the same, with time flying by and at the same time standing still. I’m reading Ray Bradbury’s ZEN AND THE ART OF WRITING and find it inspiring. I also found a talk he gave at Point Loma Nazarene on YouTube.

    Currently, I’m working on a short story. My novel-in-progress has exhausted me.

    Thank you for some great suggestions, Jackie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Maggie. I’m glad you’ve kept a journal that long. Wish I had. I “guess” I could go back on Facebook and read what I was thinking, but probably will not. A journal keeps it all together. I’ll check out that Bradbury talk on YouTube. Good luck on your short story!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, the never-ending search for inspiration, so much more challenging now. I take comfort in an adage we’ve coined over the years: Writing is writing. When the fiction ink well went dry, I turned to reality and began writing notes expressing my admiration and affection to people I care about. Even though the creative well finally refilled and I’m making progress on completing my novel, I’ll continue to send ‘love letters’.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OH, I like that, Miriam! I too write notes in all the birthday cards I send to members of our church. And it’s funny, I get thank yous (in person or another card) from the recipients. They consider a card with personal writing, a Birthday gift! I read an article today that said, there are 15 people who daily care about and think about you. And that we should be telling others “we care.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think the well is dry. I’m just wandering in another direction at the moment. Slowly I jot down a note or two and even an idea for something totally different. This lock down has made everybody look at things differently, but if the writer in you is still interested, it will make a reappearance before too long. Meanwhile, reading another good book or watching an old movie or binge-watching some TV series will give the mind and imagination a workout. Hang in there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t write at all unless it’s my fiction or email notes. Everything else these days seems to be oral…including audio books I “read” Very thought provoking post, Jackie, and the comments make feel “not so alone as I think.”
    Often I think there are story-nuggets in my dreams, but forget almost immediately, and can never remember them long enough to speak them into my Kindle or phone.
    My plot imagination is often triggered by stories I see on TV (my excuse for endless TV watching), and I used to write notes in BD cards until Jackque Lawson…changing world, changing life…still thinking which means to me, a great post! (of course endless thinking is not actually writing! ha, ha)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your “thoughts” Madeline. They are often more interesting than mine! haha. I read a book recently that had an exact plot trigger as another one I read long ago. (Can’t remember either right now, of course!) But it made me think that good ideas from books or TV can be used again & again in a different setting and a different author’s style. So keep watching those fave TV shows, and listening to audio books.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I love how you ‘act out’ the stories for the kids you teach. Look how inspiring that must be for them, so they can relate to those mystical biblical words. And as for your writing well run dry – even your briefest of emails always have whispers of tales untold, words of encouragement that inspire. Perhaps you should write an email to yourself and see if that unclogs the dam. I always love your words. Thanks, Jackie.

    Liked by 1 person

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