Thursday, October 7, 2021

What to do When Writing Inspiration Leaves You Adrift

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

Writing by the Ash Wind

Do you know this term? To do something by ash wind? 

It’s an expression I just heard a few weeks ago. It’s an old sailing term—to sail by ash wind—and the moment I learned of it, I could see the writing application. 

In case this is a new concept for you, let me explain: 

Hundreds of years ago, when ships relied on the wind to power their way across the sea, the worst thing that could happen was for the ship to become becalmed. When the ship was becalmed, it was dead in the water. There was no wind. No movement. The ship would sit there, bobbing along but going nowhere. 

If a ship remained becalmed, the sailors would do the only thing they could do. They would climb into a small boat that was tethered to the larger vessel, and they would row. 

Can you picture it? The large ship in calm seas, the smaller boat filled with sailors, rowing their hearts out. I imagine those initial pulls on the oars were painful, and that for quite some time it would feel like they were making precisely zero progress. 

Eventually, there would be some forward momentum and the ship would inch forward. It was excruciatingly slow and miserable work. But it was their only option if they wanted to ever see the shore again.

So they rowed. And their oars? They were made of ash. 
Hence the term, sailing by ash wind. 

You can see where I’m going with this, right? 

When I first started writing, the progress was quick and relatively painless. It was fun. Pure joy. I sat down and told the story in my head without a care in the world. Words flowed. Paragraphs billowed out on the page. Chapter by chapter took shape, until the manuscript was complete. 

Gotta be honest with y’all. That hasn’t how it’s been lately. 

Every now and then there’s a little puff of creative wind and the scenes almost write themselves. Most of the time I stare at the screen and wonder why on earth I’m even trying to do this. 

You’ve probably heard the adage that the difference between an amateur writer and professional writer is that the professional didn’t quit. That doesn’t mean that the professional hangs on until their muse speaks again and then enjoys the entire process.

No. What it means is that the professional makes the conscious choice to get out of the becalmed boat, to stop waiting for a bolt of inspiration or a flash of insight, and to write by ash wind. 

Yes, it means that you may have to fight for every word. It may take longer than you think it should to complete a scene. But if you keep going, you will make progress. 

Over the past couple of years I’ve written a novel and a novella by ash wind. While I was in the midst of those projects, I wasn’t even sure why I kept going. When every word is work, it’s difficult to believe that there will ever be any beauty in it. 

But last week, I had occasion to re-read huge chunks of that book. I have zero memory of writing most of it. There were a few passages that made me laugh, a few that made me tear up, a few that made me swoon. ;) What surprised me most is that even though I’m the one who wrote it, I couldn’t tell which scenes came easily and which scenes took me days or weeks to complete. 

Because the bottom line is that whether you write by ash wind or with sails full of creativity, the end result is the same. A completed manuscript. A finished poem. A Bible study, a script, a short story that is ready to share with the world. 

Most writers I know are struggling to be creative these days. If you’re feeling that way, know that you aren’t alone. But please don’t give up. 

Use that imagination and grab your oars, climb into the boat, and write by ash wind until the creative breezes begin to blow.


Grace and peace,

Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing romantic suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy, but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters and loves putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations while she's sitting at home safe and sound in her pajamas! 

Lynn’s titles have won the Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Faith, Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award. Her newest series kicked off in March 2021 with Unknown Threat, Book 1 in the Defend and Protect series. 

She is a frequent conference speaker and has taught writers all over the country. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after by signing up for her newsletter at and @LynnHBlackburn on Bookbub, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.


  1. Lynn this is perfect. Absolutely perfect. Thanks.

  2. Wonderful and much needed encouragement! Thank you.

  3. Awesome post, Lynn. You hit me right where I am. If it was easy everyone would do it, right?
    Your last two posts have been too shelf. Thank you for sharing them.

  4. Great words! And thank you for them.

  5. This was perfectly timed for me. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

  6. This explains why I have been struggling with writing. Thank you for this explanation.

  7. Word picture perfect. Thank you for the encouragement.
    Write on under wind power, personal pull, or whispered answers to prayers.

  8. Lynn, I love this analogy. You are such a practical person; thank you!