I think the thing that's taken the biggest hit is my own writing. Maybe others have had phases like this in their writing lives, but I feel as if something has sucked out my creativity and left me with the dregs of ideas and no way to bring them to life. This is more than just writer's block, this is a dry spell. What happened to the days of old when the words came easily? I have no idea if this is the right approach, but with this particular phase of stress and lack of motivation in my life, I've had to come up with some ways to keep my writing alive even when I'm not writing.
First of all, I had to stop beating myself up about not being able to write like I usually could. Don't get me wrong, writing is hard work and there are days where you really have to power through and concentrate on what you're saying. But I never want my writing to come out of stress or frustration. Maybe it's just me, but my writing has always been a refuge for my busy mind and I'd like to keep it that way. So instead of forcing myself to write and making myself miserable when it doesn't work out, I've learned to be okay with just writing down my ideas as they come and fleshing them out later.
I've also had to get past feeling ashamed about moving onto a different writing project when my inspiration is lacking. Now, I have two to three different stories going on at a time. Whenever I burn out on one I can usually pick up with the next project until I can cycle back around to what I was previous working on. Leaving a story and coming back to it later is not abandoning it. I see it as allowing myself the time I need to give it my all later on when the ideas are flowing again.
Another thing that I've been doing when my creativity feels spent is to read. I get so caught up in my own writing that sometimes that I forget what made me want to become a writer in the first place: great books! Whether it's reading poetry, short stories, or full-fledged novels, I've been able to further my writing skills even when I can't seem to put down anything on paper. It's been like an oasis in the desert and I have realized that I should have never gone as long as I have without coming back to the wonderful authors and books that I love to replenish my writer's mind. Just the other day I was able to talk with my dad about my favorite book, "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. (If you haven't already, you Must. Read. This. Book.) It was fun to talk about all of the masterful things Dickens does with his plot and characters and it really re-energized my own passion for writing. And if you need something to refill your creativity tank, Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" will do it. His attention to detail will inspire you like nothing else.
What do you do when you're going through a dry spell in your writing? How do you keep the creative spark alive? Which books refresh your writer's mind? Feel free to comment below!