Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

The Drought

An empty canvas is a living wonder — far lovelier than certain pictures.
Wassily Kandinsky. (1866–1944)

By now, I am sure you will have discovered one of the most irksome challenges on our Artist’s Way. I am referring to times of drought.

This is when the morning pages get harder to stick to, but are the most valuable. They feel like slogging through the desert, being dogged by doubt (“Oh, what’s the use? I am not getting anywhere with this”). The practice of morning pages, even the whole attempt to call ourselves artists, starts to feel pointless, even painful.

Julia describes our disenchantment, especially with morning pages, perfectly: “They feel like empty gestures – like making breakfast for the lover we know is leaving us anyhow.”

Droughts, she acknowledges, whisper to us that they will last forever; they haunt us with fears about our own mortality, and that we will never ever have done anything of value before we depart this life.

“Hoping against hope,” she writes, “we go through the motions. Our consciousness is parched. We cannot feel so much as a trickle of grace.”

As usual, her timing is dead on. Because frankly, I am sort of feeling this way. I tell myself I am ready for this to be over with. I want to go off and do something more fun. I am sick of my morning pages, tired of talking about this stuff, and too busy anyhow to really deal with my artist urges.

Bingo. This is really what the drought is all about, and I, for one, am right there. And truly, the fact that this is even happening shows that I am not lost.  Yes, it is dangerous territory, where many do give up.  But it is a very predictable part of this journey.

She tells us, “During a drought (during a doubt, I [Julia] just accurately wrote with a slip of the finger), we are fighting with God/dess. We have lost faith – in the Great Creator and in our creative selves. We have some bone to pick, and bones to pick are everywhere. This is the desert of the heart. Looking for a hopeful sign, all we see are the hulking remains of dreams that died along the path.

“And yet we write our morning pages because we must.

“During a drought,” she emphasizes, “emotions are dried up. Like water, they may exist somewhere underneath, but we have no access to them… We are between dreams…Too listless to even know our losses, we put one page after another, more from habit than from hope.

“And yet we write our morning pages because we must.”

So here’s the thing. Droughts do end. And like the desert, one day what appeared to be all dead and empty will suddenly bloom. It will if and only if you hang in there, keep showing up, and going through the motions in your morning pages. Once again, they really are a non-negotiable, mission-critical part of this recovery.  They become the habit, the practice, that will save the day when you feel you can no longer make it happen.

If you don’t need a map for your recovery, good for you; maybe you don’t need morning pages. But for the rest of us, who have already spent years wandering in the desert, they will truly show us the way home. So let us keep journaling; let us keep going forward.

More next week!

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  • January 8, 2010, 9:08 am denise

    Oh, how I needed to read this today! I have a paper due in class and though I have my notes written and convinced myself it would be easy to complete, self doubt, lack of confidence in my writing skills and intelligence, along with a major dose of laziness/procrastination has killed what little discipline and focus I had for this assignmnet.

    But it must be done.

    Thanks for the good advice, Beth. I’m sure I’ll refer back to your post when I feel my whiney side taking over again.

  • January 8, 2010, 10:03 am Maria

    When I hit a drought, I’ve been trying to get back to that “moving target” idea: do something, preferably something creative, but different. Writing not going well? I get in the kitchen and cook. Or make some jewelry, or even just move things around in my apartment so that it looks fresh and the energy feels new. Whatever gets the creativity flowing but doesn’t have the weight of drought clinging to it.

    Or sometimes I just need a break: a far-infrared sauna, a good movie, a good book, or even a nap. Time out can fuel my desire to create, and that’s OK too.

  • January 8, 2010, 9:14 pm Heather

    I would like to thank you Maria for your advice of being a moving target. I have tried that once or twice and I find it works very well. I need to remember to do it more when I hit a drought.

  • January 9, 2010, 4:57 pm athene noctua

    Ok-must confess I have followed the blog all through this past yr of following the Artist the Way, but never did the morning pages. This yr my resolution was to actually do the morning pages. So I started doing them, for about a wk now. Must admit, sometimes it seems a bit pointless, it’s mostly writing gripes and complaints, and I wonder why’s. I figure if I keep doing it, at some point. things will start to come to light.

  • January 10, 2010, 9:16 am Beth

    === Spoiler alert ===

    We’ll talk a lot more about some of this later (including the terminology), but one of the most important things that the morning pages will do, once they become a strong, steady daily habit, is they will become a “believing mirror” for you. They become a deep truth-teller that sometimes knows better than “you” do what you are capable of, what is interrupting your flow, what is good or toxic for you, what creative dream is banging on the door to come alive.