What to do When the Well Runs Dry
By Pat Nease
I was a writer before I was a storyteller, and cannot remember ever hitting a blank wall, of having no spark, no festering ideas waiting to be developed, no urge to create. I loved assembling the frame, linking the right words together, deliberating over a phrase – or a joke – or a pun, feeling the rush when the ending made itself known. Ideas were always popping into my head and I needed no excuse to create a story.
One of my fondest memories was, while teaching, writing an End-of-the-Year story every year for our faculty that was shared at our final gathering. It included all the good, the bad, and the crazy things that happened during the school year – with funny asides about folks and students. We laughed our way through it. I wrote songs to help my 5th graders remember American history. When I was busy entering Liar’s Contests, or presenting workshops, or telling stories for various events, I had no qualms about coming up with a new take on an old tale or waking with an idea that was unique just to me.
Until the last few years.
I haven’t had an original creative thought since 2018. I can’t decide if I got lazy, that maybe it was easier to keep telling the old stories that I KNEW worked, or if I was so busy with other life matters that there was no time for contemplation, for dreaming, for saying, “What if…”
I stopped keeping up my web site and calendar. I avoided my storytelling books and magazines. I was not inclined to watch Zoomed Teller events – remorse? Jealousy? Shame? I’d be on the brink of taking down my shingle when, out of the blue, someone would invite me to tell.
I’d get away with telling my old standbys – but to a new audience. Well. Mostly. So I hung on.
Meanwhile, my colleagues were delivering lovely, inspiring, thoughtful, humorous, delicious tales.
When Walt Belcher asked me to write something for the Blog, I had no ideas. He suggested maybe something on humor or developing a whopper or my mode of creating story. Hah. That was an empty bucket. But I began to reflect on the passion I seemed to have lost and wonder if I could get it back.
I hope so.
I’m hoping the muscle can be revitalized, sort of like an athlete who has to regain strength after an injury. And maybe that’s what I have. An injury. Or so I hope. Here’s the plan:
1. TIME for reading and writing and thinking. Every day. (For a while, there were not enough hours in the day, especially after Hurricane Michael. Things are more settled now.)
2. New experiences. I hadn’t put my kayak in the water for over 3 years, lived near beautiful beaches but didn’t go there, let opportunities to attend a variety of events pass me by, limited my circle of friends. Gonna’ change this!
3. Creating opportunities for telling. When did I stop volunteering for our senior centers? Contacting libraries for their summer programs? Letting my local schools know that I was alive and well and available? My primary mode of operation has always been deadline panic. I’d procrastinate, then be putting the finishing touches on a story the day it was to be told. I know, I know. Not a smart way to work, but it DID work. Maybe the panic opened up a door in my brain that was otherwise sticky.
4. Support from Storytellers. If you’ve been where I am, or have an idea, or just want to offer encouragement, let me know. I never feel more alive than when I’m sharing a story and know my listeners and I are all on the bus, barreling down the same highway. I want to feel that way again.
Florida Storytelling Association 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award