If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked. Any extended period of piece of work draws heavily on our artistic well.
As artists we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them– to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well. "
I've mentioned the great Julia Cameron on the blog before, but I can't say enough about her. Composer, screenwriter, novelist, and creativity guru only scratch the surface of this woman's incredible talents. Her book The Artist's Way is one of my favorite books on recovering a sense of creativity and play in your life. My copy is well loved; dog eared, wrinkled, and treasured again and again. If you feel like you're in a creative rut, check it out at your library or buy a very cheap copy here.
One of my favorite creative concepts that Cameron talks about is the idea that creativity is like a well. When we get inspired with a project, we give and give, using the well stocked reserves we have collected over the days, months, and years of our life. Like a real well though, we can't keep giving forever. Once the well becomes depleted, it's time to switch gears for a bit and restock the well. Just as you wouldn't expect to be able to keep paying your bills from your bank account, without having money coming into your bank account, we can't expect to maintain our inspiration (or sanity) without making sure our well has something from which to draw.
How do you refill the well? Well it's different for everyone, depending on what feeds you, but it should be activities or things that you love deeply and that bring you joy. For me, it's watching old Charlie Chaplin films; there's something about silent movies that allow me to be present and not let my mind wander to the mistake I made at work yesterday or the errands I need to run tomorrow. It's baking something really delicious on a Saturday, while listening to some of my favorite music. It might be going to an art museum with the goal of looking at just two or three of my favorite paintings. Last weekend it meant reading Gone Girl and doing little else. Sometimes, it's just plain going to bed early.
The good news is that if you are in the middle of a project, like I am at the moment, you don't have to shut down production completely to refill the well. Honestly, if it gets to the point that you feel you can't go on another step, you probably have burned yourself out (I know, because I've done this many times before). Instead, think of it as trying to balance time you spend on creative output with time spend with creative input. As Cameron says, it's about maintaining our creative "ecosystem".
I'd love to hear, how do you refill your well?