Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Wallowing in the Ebb

As many of you have realized, I have been in a bit of a creative slump.

I took the last week of August off from my job and had such grand plans!  I was going to write every day, work on my manuscript submissions and crank out some query letters, schedule a bunch of blog posts for this month, read, start working out, eat healthy, play piano and violin, and just marinate in creative juices.  Ten whole days with nowhere to be except an appointment to drop off and pick up a cat for surgery at the vet, and an appointment for me to get a much-needed massage. Otherwise, the world was my oyster and I was going to squeeze each day for all it was worth!

I didn’t do any of those things. Nothing got written, submitted, queried, blogged.  No muscles got sculpted, no sweat got broken, very little health-magazine worthy meals were plated.  No ivories got tinkled and no strings got bowed.

Yes, my cat had her long awaited surgery to remove a tumor from her head.  (She is recovering very well, and the biopsy results came back benign.)  Yes, I had that much needed massage.  But all those other things? Nope.  Well, I did read.  A lot. And nap. Yes, I can say that I think I set a record for myself in that I actually managed to nap for 90 minutes for ten days straight. (I was a little worried about how I was going to get through and 8 hour day at the office that first day back.)

And that was pretty much all I did, except feel guilty about not doing any of the things I had thought I would or should do.  Guilt is a very big thing for me.  I am really good at it. 🙂

My friends, when they heard of my naps and lounging, were envious, and perhaps a little incredulous.  How does someone go about clearing their life so they can actually relax in the truest sense of the word for ten days straight.  What about errands and obligations? I did some errands – a stop at Target early in the week, grocery shopping – but that was it.  Chores? Yes, when you have six cats and a home, there are always chores – feeding and scooping and vacuuming – and I didn’t let that go by the wayside.

But for the vast majority of my ten day stretch, I lounged.

I have given a lot of thought to why this should make me feel guilty.  We live in a society where busy wins every time.  Everyone is busy and it seems people are always trying to win the prize for the being the busiest.  Personally, I hate it when my life gets so busy.  I am a person who needs time to just veg out a bit.  Maybe ten days is a little excessive, but then again, maybe my body and brain really needed the down time.

As creatives, we are always hearing about going with the flow.  Maybe we need to also learn to wallow in the ebb.  Creativity is tidal in nature.  Some days the creative waters rise and fill us, and other times we are left with the small puddles left in the wake of the receding creative tide.  I think we spend far too much time worrying and fretting through these ebbs.  Will the tide come back?  Will I ever write again?  What if I can’t think of any other ideas?

Some writers (and other artists, I am sure) extoll the importance of showing up every single day and sitting with your tools – blank page, blank canvas, piano, whatever- and waiting for the muse to show.  They claim that if we are not there, the muse will never find us.  I really hope that isn’t true.  I go in spurts.  I have never managed to find that hour each day to show up and stare at the screen til something comes.  Some weeks I am full of words and cannot wait to get to my notebook or laptop to let them spill.  Other days, I feel like my creative mind is a wasteland, dry and dusty and desperate.  Sometimes I cannot find a minute to breathe, let alone write.  So if the muse will only show up if I consistently show up on a regular schedule.  I may be in a heap of trouble.

Maybe I need to read more SARK, who is very much a proponent of napping as a creative tool. 🙂

I think it is as important for us to learn to not panic during the low times.  Panic leads to that all or nothing thinking that will stop you in your creative tracks.  If I don’t write every day, I can’t write at all.  I am not a writer.

Not true.

I would rather think of the low times where nothing creative seems to be happening in my life as times when my muses are gearing up for something bigger than I could hope for.  Isn’t that a lot more uplifting?  Instead of thinking I am worthless and will never accomplish my creative dreams, I find myself hopeful.  I know this lull will pass and then look out, world!  My muses are making plans!


  1. Dolce far niente ~ Bravo!

    • Thanks Chrissy! Had to look that one up – but it fits perfectly! 🙂

  2. Beautiful entry, Cheryl…and if I might add a thought: I’d argue that we, as writers or creatives of any sort, should NOT be held to the “publish/perish” “write every day or you’re a fraud” standard you mention, [and disclaimed so well!] simply because part of our art is to chronicle and be inspired by things we observe in the outer world – not just the [often very rich and way more interesting] inner doings. We need to sit and watch, walk and reflect, just BE withOUT being “productive” so that we can be better at what we do. And if some read this as permission to be “lazy”… indeed. 🙂

    • Thanks for that! I was indeed feeling like an unproductive slug by the end of the week. i have to remind myself it is all part of the process. There will be highs and lows with everything, and going throught the lows without beating myself up is an important skill to learn.

  3. Zen

    I don’t think you should feel bad about not doing anything! Sometimes a bit of rest and relaxation is just what one needs to be able to start writing again.

    • Thanks Zen! I am lesrning to give myself permission.m 🙂

  4. Hi Cheryl, so glad you’re back 🙂 I was waiting for you to post again! This was a very engaging post to swing back with. It’s funny, I’ve said the same thing about being “busy.” I don’t like it. And you’re RIGHT, society tells us that the busier the better. I refuse to buy into the philosophy.

    I don’t write everyday, but I write a lot. I have a wealth of material to work from. I also get the “guilt” when I don’t write. I’m glad to see I’m not alone!

    So glad your cat is doing well 🙂 I have two cats myself. I also have one of those little inspirational quote books called “Cat Naps: The Key to Contentment” and it’s basically photographs of sleeping cats aside quotes that stress the importance of relaxation.

    So don’t feel guilty about not writing everyday…you’ll write plenty. Your vacation sounded divine 🙂

    • Thanks! It feels good to be back. I guess sometimes you just have to let those creative juices simmer a bit and they will tell you when they are ready!
      We actually have six cats, our babies! One is diabetic, one has thyroid issues and is on kitty prozac, and the newest rescue has severe asthma, broken teeth and had the tumor. She is finally starting to trust us more and is turning into a sweetie pie.
      So glad I am not alone in the guilt thing… It is a tough habit to break. 🙂

  5. I need to take a page out of your book, I think. I feel like when I’m lounging, I’m wasting time. It’s terrible, and I need to overcome that feeling of guilt.

    Glad to know your kitty is on the mend.

    I love Sark–always reminds me that child inside of me. 🙂

    • I keep Sark books around because they really put it down to basics – life is juicy, naps are required, and so on. Plus how can you resist the bright crayon like text? 🙂

  6. Here, in Godzone, the ancient Maori had a thing about working to the moon. Those in the know of these concepts use the same idea today. You only write on the waxing moon, or the full moon, when the moon is waning anything creative is strictly off-limits. My friend, a poet, suggested I try it. I did. But it didn’t work for me at all. I found I wanted to write here, there & everywhere, regardless of wax or wane. So I say, do whatever feels right personally for you. Your inner self can be your only guide.

    • Thanks, Yvette. An interesting idea about writing on the waxing or full moon… may try it and see if it works for my muse. 🙂

  7. Daphne Shadows

    Everyone needs time to NOT be busy. The rat race isn’t all its cracked up to be. Glad you took some time off of “busy” and just relaxed! 🙂

    • Thanks Daphne! I agree – I don’t like being a rat in the race very much. 🙂

  8. Cappy Love Hanson

    Sounds like you really needed to fill up the well. I have slumps like this, too. Julia Cameron says that’s a good time to think small, to take one baby step at a time, not overwhelm ourselves by doing the thousand things we can imagine ourselves doing. In this culture, not being busy is almost subversive. We all need it to be creative. Good luck!

    • Thanks for stopping in! I agree with the baby step concept and am trying to approach my creativity that way. I tend to let things snowball, so one project leads to twelve and the next thing I know I am not doing any of them. Must learn to take things by the moment. 🙂


  1. When the Tide Goes Out | Catching Fireflies

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