Sundry Posts,  Writing,  Writing Habits

When Creative Juices Stop Flowing, Prime the Pump!

Prime the pump. Old fashioned water pump in field of flowers.
Photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash

What do I do when the pump stops working? I prime the pump!

I love the metaphor of priming the pump. Though I seem to be collecting metaphors hey have this way of staying tucked into the back of my mind until I need them. But Prim the Pump is one that I’ve used in my writing and in my professional work.

What is Priming the Pump?

For those of us who don’t live in an urban setting and are connected to a city water system i.e. rural living, having running water necessitates having a well.

If you are lucky, you already have one of these. The pipes go deep into the ground with a pump at the top to allow for running water at the touch of a button. Or the turning of a handle.

However, if the water stops working for some reason, then you have to take action.

Sometimes the well stops because there is no water at the bottom. The well has dried up and there is nothing else to do but find water in a different location. Or wait for things to fill back up.

Often the pump itself is the problem. Which means looking for and finding the issue.

However, there are times where there is nothing to do except to drill another well.

When that happens a big truck comes to your house or land. On it, there is piping and the drill. Now, I’m not really sure how this mechanism works but it seems like it is less like a drill you would use around the house and a machine to drive the new pipe into the ground hoping to strike water. (New idea) Anyway, the truck gets the pipe to the water.

Now, how do you get the water back up to where you can use it?

Well, that is when you prime the pump.

Priming the pump is when you pour water down the pipe until it is full and the pump can begin working. In some ways, it works like suction. As long as there are no air bubbles, things flow fine. But, first, you have to fill the pipe for anything to begin to work.

What does that mean when it comes to your writing life?

There are times when the words don’t want to come. For me, that time is right now. Words have dried up. Ideas aren’t coming. The pump has stopped working.

So what can I do?

One of my favorite ways to get things working again is to just start writing. Yes, I understand that the pump has dried up but you’ve got to turn it on before the magic can happen.

Just begin means to sit down and start writing regardless of what comes out. I mean no complete sentences. Throw punctuation out of the window. Repeat yourself if you have to just to get some words on paper.

This works when you have a goal to reach. For me, this is 500 words. For some, it could mean 100, 200 or 1000. If you are stuck, I wouldn’t recommend 1000. Start with a low number that you have a chance to reach. And just keep at it until you’ve reached that goal.

If some words have begun to flow, fabulous. If not, come back tomorrow and try again. And, don’t forget to celebrate that you did get words on paper. In this stage, the most important thing is to get the words out.

Another way that I like to prime my pump is to read. And not just any reading. But a book about writing or some other inspirational piece. Heck, I’ve even read a historical book (for research) and gotten inspired to write. If you can get inspired through fiction, so be it. That just doesn’t work for me.

This is where having some decent books in your library specifically for inspiration can help. I have a list of ones that help me and I will add them to my resource page. Some of these have come from other people’s inspirational piles and that leads me to the third way to prime the pump.

The next way I like to get the creative juices flowing is by meeting up with other writers. Unfortunately, when you live in a rural area, this can mean that you have to drive. That is okay. A change of scenery can also help get things moving in your life.

I’ve spoken about this many times on this platform, here is one of them, but finding a tribe of people who are like-minded and have relatively the same goal as you. Writing groups, accountability partners, meeting a friend for coffee, each of these is a way to get things moving.

We tend to get stagnant in our lives which is why getting out of your space and meeting with people are good ways to get your words flowing again.

What are the ways that you get inspiration back? Do you use any of the things I’ve listed above? I would like to hear from them.

Until next time,

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