Inner Space

Last week, after I explained why there will be a change in the nature of the Wednesday Wanderings, one of the “ghosts” expressed puzzlement as to why writing a relatively short essay each week should be an issue for a professional writer.

Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Here’s what I explained to her.  The biggest difficulty is the “brain space” that gets occupied coming up with topics for the posts.  As soon as I finish one, a corner of my mind is taken up with searching for the next topic.  Seven years ago, this was relatively easy, because there was a whole sheaf of things about me, my writing, my habits (which often spill back into writing) that were unknowns.  These days, someone could probably construct a moderately interesting biography of me from the over 360 Wednesday Wanderings posts alone – not to mention what’s in the Thursday Tangents and Friday Fragments.

Consequently, ninety percent of the topics I come up with are dismissed as “that’s too close to what I did back a few months ago…” and so get discarded.

But this time I’ll allow myself a repeat.  Most writers learn that they have only so much “writing” in them on a given day.  That amount can be built up over time, with practice, but whatever that amount may be is finite.  When the well is dry, the well is dry.

Over time, I’ve come to feel that what the well holds is not so much word count as inspiration.  If I exhaust my inspiration coming up with blogs, then it’s not there for writing fiction or even for proofing and editing fiction.   And unlike some of the other things I spend time on – reading, craftwork, gardening, even working on the role-playing game I run – writing blogs dries out the well and doesn’t do anything to fill it again.

That’s why possible topics from you are welcome.   If you’re shy (like last week’s ghost) or feel what you’re interested in asking is too long for a Comment, you can e-mail me at

A secondary consideration in why I’m backing off a bit on the Wanderings is that I have always tried to provide a quality discussion of whatever my topic is.  Maybe it’s the latent English professor in me but, whatever the cause, that’s how I am.

I realize my approach may not be in keeping of the nature of the “blog,” as opposed to older forms of communication media.  The other day on a prominent SF/F website (which I shall forebear to name), there was a featured post by a novelist regarding her work and research habits.  It was so filled with cutesy slang and so lacking in any real substance that I had to force myself to finish it.

(I forced myself to finish because I couldn’t believe a prominent site would publish such a vacuous piece, so surely this must develop into something.  It didn’t.)

When I finished reading the blog in question, I felt as if I’d eaten a stack of puffed rice cakes.  I was “full,” but I didn’t feel at all satisfied.  And then I started feeling annoyed that puffed rice had been offered as if it was good quality food.

This week’s photo is of Guns, the anthology edited by Gerald Hausman, to which I contributed the short story “Choice of Weapons.”  In the course of coming up with that story, I had some interesting ideas for another one…  Reading the stories and poems in the anthology has given me more food for thought.

So, what fills your creative well?  What drains it?

10 Responses to “Inner Space”

  1. Peter Says:

    In an interesting bit of synchronicity, my colleagues and I used the same metaphor – draining the creative well – just recently while attempting to explain to our (now ex-) employer why we couldn’t easily absorb an extra ten contact hours each per week in the aftermath of his deciding to cancel a bunch of extracurricular activities in favour of more class time.

    As a teacher I find the biggest drains on my creative well are administrative paperwork (curse you, o manager from Porlock!) and the time spent preparing each class – the actual teaching generally isn’t a drain, and can actually top up the well on a good day, the drain is in the preparation. More specifically I find that the younger the students in the class I’m preparing, the bigger the gulps I have to take.

    I usually refill by reading, watching movies, walking in the park, or going to museums or galleries. That last can serve as a great source for inspiration, since the art or history I’m seeing is usually sufficiently outside my experience that it can spark new connections.

    • janelindskold Says:

      That’s fascinating… Did the “ex” employer leave because he couldn’t understand that teaching isn’t just about classroom time, but also prep? That was the toughest thing to explain to people when I taught.

      • Peter Says:

        His lack of understanding was among the reasons we all left, yes. It’s a sadly-common misunderstanding. For the people with no teaching background, my usual rule of thumb is “allow an hour of preparation time for every hour of classroom time” (some classes will take more, some less, but it’s not a bad approximation.)

        The problem’s not unique to teaching, of course. I once heard somebody say, with a straight face, that a certain well-known SFF writer from New Mexico had no excuse for his latest novel not being on shelves because “even if you only type 50 wpm, it shouldn’t take more than about 5 minutes per ms page” so it couldn’t possibly take more than a few months to produce a full-length novel…

      • janelindskold Says:

        Oh, yeah. Typing time is all that goes into writing fiction or anything. I’d LOVE to see how that person would have felt to have the same guidelines applied to writing, say, a A or even “Be” term paper.

  2. Louis Robinson Says:

    AFAICT, vacuity is the essence of blogging, which is why I read so few of them. And why I’m all in favour of you doing whatever is needed to maintain content at your average level.

    I’m not sure I have a creative well, since I’m an analyst by nature. But I’m best at generating coherent thought when i have a nice stack of juicy data to mull over. Or even a trivial conundrum. Which is why I’m currently wondering if the ‘ex’ attached to Peter’s employer is collective or individual, and if collective, whether it is due to management, having lost the confidence of the staff, being forced to elect a new staff, or whether the staff, having lost confidence, succeeded in throwing the manager to the wolves. The ambiguities of English can provide hours of refreshment 😉

    • Peter Says:

      At the risk of spoiling your fun, it’s both collective and a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B (the entire staff quit, both academic and administrative; we didn’t so much “throw him to the wolves” as “report him to the appropriate law enforcement authorities in two countries for gross – and grotesque – legal violations when our loss of confidence led us to doing some research, which in turn led us to some deeply disturbing discoveries.)

      As far as the ambiguities of English, they can not only provide hours of refreshment, they can provide a pretty decent living trying to help people navigate the linguistic swamp 🙂

      • henrietta abeyta Says:

        Personal work or school classes, it’s quite common that knowledge isn’t what the student lacks but patience and trust in himself / herself. Future necessities aren’t clear to every kid.

        Plus many school students don’t realize how often they’re pushed instead of advised by their parents, you rarely find someone with personal strength.

        I’d say advice is nice, pushing is disrespect, and manipulating is usually okay, convincing is what you must be careful with. But hundreds of kids don’t understand the differences.

  3. henrietta abeyta Says:

    It isn’t only I’m Autistic but function enough to volunteer. the other things are Grandma was a social worker who spoke with prisoners for a little while, during my own years of Jr High and High School I repeatedly saw her college friend Evie who was another social worker usually taking rough kids out of regular school, and then my aunt who’s Grandma’s sister was a teacher who’d talk about classes of her students in California. Plus Grandma’s quite willing to politely warn me what words are now often misused and my imagination helps me with vocabulary too.

    And then whether a lesson or a task I’m willing to be flexible, to either please the boss or pick the best solution.

    Music, and books are what fill my well the most, but art fills it a little bit, and animated movies are a daily entertainment of mine. You could say messages from stories and expressions of truth are what fill my creative well non-stop.

    Part of why my compassion feels so deep with wolves is I FIND A PACK GIVEN LESS TIME TO SPEAK UP THAN A SPECIAL NEEDS PERSON WHEN FACING A HUMAN FOE PLENTY OF TRUE SYMPATHY, even if most people see it as a very little amount. I have an easy time figuring out what’s behavior and what’s fashion while watching one person / studying one culture at a time. I’ve recently learned how serious confusion about fashion can make you seem a bit wild. Africa’s landscapes are nothing like America’s.

    The Good Lie is one of the realistic movies that treats Africa politely.

    Jasmine Olson speaking.

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