When the Well Runs Dry

I had this thought last week: “The well is dry.” It was an interesting thought because I was doing all the right things in order to cultivate newness within my thoughts and life, but it was the reality I had run up against. I was running on empty.

Those of you who consider yourselves to be artists can surely relate to the feeling of wanting to create something but having nothing to draw on. It’s a helpless feeling, especially if you’ve been doing the things that typically help stir you toward creation.

As a writer, I’ve described this struggle as the blinking cursor that causes my pulse to rise. The helpless feeling leads to stress, which then leads to questioning what’s wrong.

Creating would sure be easier if we could just follow the same formula over and over again. But it doesn’t work like that. Speaking into emptiness seems to ebb and flow without the consistency of an ocean wave.

I start to beat myself up. “The best writers and the best creators are able to put out great content on command, but you’re just going through the motions,” I say to myself. Or, “Sooner or later people will figure out that you’re just a fake.”

Neither of these thoughts lack truth, but are they edifying for my heart? No, they wage a war on me moment after moment, teaching me that my life is defined by whether I can produce something.

All of us will have moments when the well runs dry. Certainly there are steps we can take to fill up our proverbial cups, but who we are as people shows itself not in our emptiness but in how we respond to the barrenness.

Do we choose to wallow in self-deprecation or do we pour what few drops we have left into the Creator?

This has been my struggle for about 3 weeks now. I used to freak out if I went 2 days without sensing some inspiration for writing or pastoral ministry. So 3 weeks is new territory for me. And to be honest, I’m not really out of this, but I have learned a secret:

Filling up the well is not about finding new inspiration, it is about pursuing peace.

Filling up my well is not really even about filling up the well. Without peace we’ll just pursue hyperactivity in order to fill the void.

For me this peace meant turning off every screen I fill my day with. It meant setting down the pen and notebook. It meant getting outside in a quiet enough space to hear the wind blow through the trees. Quiet enough to hear the birds sing their tune. Then I open up one of my go-to books that always challenge me whether I read 1 page or 10.

This isn’t a formula. Peace isn’t something we can accomplish, but we can allow our hyperactive minds to quiet enough in order for truth to enter in.

Soon enough the well will be overflowing again.