Back to the Well

Sometimes when I first sit down to write, I turn my attention to the well from which my stories come and find nothing. This is partly a consequence of writing these little essays, which I must begin from scratch each day, but I have also experienced the dry well when working on larger projects. When I was a very young writer, and had made the decision that I wanted to be a writer and not simply write when I felt like it, I thought I could manufacture the ideas the well would have otherwise provided. It seemed like the adult thing to do. Adults, from my limited experience, manufactured everything. The manufacturing of ideas went very poorly. It was like trying to build a flower, which is to say I didn’t even know how to begin. This was vaguely worrisome. My life and livelihood were to depend on these ideas. If I was not their sole source, how could I create with any certainty? How could I know that ideas would come as bright and lovely tomorrow as they did today?

It was a good question that, like many good questions, sat unanswered in my heart until it became a complaint. This particular complaint had a metaphysical flavor to it, which gave it poetic credibility: “Oh, capricious Muse, wherefore art thou?” Eventually, I grew tired of that flavor, finally tasting the bitterness beneath its tangy drama. I saw then where that bitterness came from; I saw how easy it would be to live your life in that very bitterness, feeling abandoned and disappointed and resentful.

Which is to say, I let myself answer the question. If you’ve ever answered this question for yourself then you know it is impossible to describe where the ideas come from; you know only that they come. All we need, I have learned, is a good question. The better the question, the better the answer. Be careful with your questions, however. If it’s a really good one, the answer will arrive with such force that you may fear its momentum. You may feel unready or undeserving, a child who’s stumbled into an adult’s game. Fortunately, the longer you resist the answer, the more you will suffer, until the suffering becomes greater than the fear, and the well becomes a river flowing.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.


Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence. You can find William at:

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