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Navigating Fallow Time

by Rochelle Melander

It’s important to stand still sometimes. Think of it as a little rest in the long journey of your life. This is your harbor. And your boat is just dropping anchor here for a little while. And after you’re well rested, you can set sail again. –Satoshi Yagisawa, Days at the Morisaki Bookshop

We all need fallow time: the space between projects when we search for a new idea. But sometimes we don’t choose the idle periods.

Instead, something happens to us—and we can’t write. We get sick. We experience a life crisis or transition. We get busy with work or volunteer duties.

Whatever the cause, the result is the same: we lose our desire to write. When we try to write, nothing comes. We stare at the blank page. We might curse ourselves for our inactivity. We might curse our muses for abandoning us. We worry we’ll never write again. We agonize over our inactivity.

How do you cope?

Let go of expectations

When you’re wiped and not able to work, some will tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get to work. I’ve done that—written through the bad times—and it almost never helps. I ended up feeling more defeated. Let go of any ideas that you “should” be producing. Unless you have a deadline you can’t miss, you need to take time to heal.

Lean in

Instead of pushing through and getting productive, lean into the fallow time. Take walks. Read a book. Take a nap. Watch movies. The muse and your energy will return. Now is the time to rest.


Think of your journaling like morning pages—one to three messy pages about anything going on in your life. During a crisis, when you don’t have the energy to write long paragraphs, don’t. Instead, set a timer for five minutes and make a list. What are you grateful for? What are you angry about? What did you do today?

Or try this: listen to a favorite song or two and write down the phrases that strike you.

The practice of journaling helps in two ways. First, it’s healing. Second, it allows you to hold space for your writing habit. You may not be writing now. You may just be jotting down your feelings. But some day, the writing energy will return and you will have saved a space for it.


During fallow time, I tend to isolate myself. Some isolation is good—it allows for deep rest and healing. But during fallow time, we also need the care and nurturing of other people. Stay connected to the people who know you’re enough just the way you are—outside of what you produce. Allow them to love and care for you.

You’re turn

What helps you when you’re in fallow time? Leave a comment below.

NOTE: For more ideas about how to embrace idle time, check out my post: Embrace Idle Time

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