From Pat Rice:
This is my day to blog but I still have some lovely replies left over from Friday's Ask-A-Wench question about filling the well, and well, I'm immersed in so much work and travel that I'm amazed I remembered what day it is. If this gets posted on Tuesday, please be forgiving!
The question was–how do you fill the creativity well?
From Sherrie Holmes: This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I think most writers are artistically creative in other ways than in writing—be it gardening, painting, dancing, etc. For me, it’s making cards and decorating my house (I’m a closet interior designer). (Pat says: I’ve seen the pictures. Sherrie might design closets occasionally, but she also paints every surface in sight and designs rooms with a delightful eye for color. “G”) I no longer have time for oil painting or watercolors, but making cards is a well-replenishing task for me. I have over 1,000 rubber stamps, and an entire rainbow of
miscellaneous accompaniments—ink pads, lace, yarn, colored paper, and other embellishments. I can easily spend 1-2 hours on each card, and the finished product fills me with a sense of pride and accomplishment. (Probably the modern equivalent of a Regency miss talented in embroidery) ~
Once your creativity becomes your work it's very easy to forget to nourish the inner child and play — especially in writing. I used to write all sorts of silly things for fun, often going to a lot of trouble, but once writing became my work, I thought all my writing should be for work. Big mistake.
Now I'm more careful about replenishing the creative well — it's a serious reason (excuse?) to have fun.
The thing that most refills the well for me is giving myself time to dream. You don't have to be in a bed to dream — having your hands busy and your mind dreaming is a perfectly satisfactory way to do it. I will chop vegetables or garden or make small things or walk and dream at the same time. I make things all the time. They're nothing very wonderful, but they satisfy an urge in me and keep my hands busy while I'm watching TV—or dreaming up a story. I make necklaces and bracelets and earrings and paper beads (Pat notes: Anne's beading is no trifling thing! She made all the wenches at RWA last year gorgeous beaded necklaces. I wear mine constantly!) and foist the results on my friends (and occasionally hapless acquaintances,) I make cards (though not as beautiful as Sherrie's) and christmas decorations. Sometimes I make teensy things for dolls houses. Currently I'm decorating berets.
From Barbara Samuel I learned about going on 'artist dates' — giving yourself an experience that keeps the magic alive and the well refilled. There's a good explanation of it here: http://paperartstudio.tripod.com/artistsway/id4.html
The very best thing I think is travel — being thrown out of your comfort zone, interacting with new people, places, cultures — but it's not always possible. Hearing live music always makes me feel wonderful and refills the well; making live music with friends even more so. I also love to soak up beautiful things by going to galleries and museums, and I love to get out of the city and spend time in wild and lovely places. But if I'm pressed for time, even just a walk along a beach at twilight or dawn is enough to set me dreaming.
And then, of course, there's reading, which I do everywhere and anywhere and always have. While a new book is percolating in my head I tend to read outside my genre. Currently I'm reading the Kushiel fantasy
series by Jacqueline Carey, a very dark, fascinating series set in an alternative medieval European world. Each book has haunted me long after I've read it, and for me, there's nothing like dwelling in a different imaginary worlds to refill the well.
And if you try to live in the moment and appreciate what comes, even routine events can still renew your spirit. I walked my dog very late the other night, a chilly, dark winter's night, and bumped into a friend walking his dog. We walked along the wilderness path beside the creek in the dark, not talking much, just aware of the sounds of the creek, the breeze stirring the leaves and various sounds of the night, while the dogs darted and snuffled back and forth in search of who knew what, and far in the distance the hum of city life. And then the moon rose and the darkness turned to silver and shadows. A little moment of magic in the mundane.
Writing is such an intense discipline that on finishing a book, I really do need to replenish the well of mental energy. Because I have to focus so hard on choosing each and every word, and how to fit them all together in sentences and paragraphs, I find that doing things that are very “physical” or “intuitive” help me relax and recharge. I try to visit a museum or art gallery to look at visual images. Or I walk, bike, or play golf—all things that stimulate non-verbal parts of the brain. “Mindless” activities, like weeding in the garden, are also surprisingly satisfying, as is cooking. Trying a new recipe is always fun because it’s quick, and creativity is so quickly rewarded with a tangible result—especially if it involves chocolate!
I also catch up on my TBR pile, but purely as a reader, not a writer. I take joy in being transported by the magic of someone else’s story. After a few days of puttering, I usually find that my new ideas have percolated long enough in my head that my fingers are itching to once again start the process of capturing them on cyber-paper.
When the creative energy feels depleted, what works best for me is to try to do something nearly every day to recharge the battery — such as listening to music, reading a little, going for a walk, or doing some tai chi (that and qigong can help center and fuel the creative effort, and also keep me healthy
with the long writing hours!). Reading can fill the well too, as I feel an urge to write my own stuff, though sometimes reading does the opposite–I tend to stay away from reading anything similar to what I'm writing when in the midst of a project.
Sometimes I have to recharge and calm down not because the well is so empty — but because it's spilling over. The brain can get overstimulated from high intensity writing and researching, and there are times when the ideas are jumping, but the brain and body are wearing down. A little downtime is a great remedy for that, and a quick fix is to watch a little TV or a movie–though for me, the best antidote for Too Many Words is to do something three-dimensional and hands on, such as painting (this can be a wall, a room, or just a small piece of furniture) or moving furniture around, knitting, beading, whatever is easy and rewarding and doesn't involve written words at all. Gardening and cooking work really well for filling the Well, too, though I'm a better painter of walls and shover of > furniture than I am a gardener or a cook. After finishing a book, I've painted whole rooms, and there is just something so satisfying about finishing a 3D project in a day or so.
The important thing is to recharge and refill often, not just when you're creatively exhausted, in ways that make you feel good and happy, and that lend some balance to your life as well as more creativity.
Brief answer — write something different, even if just as a play break. Read different things, fiction and non-fiction. Go somewhere new. Meet someone different. Go on the internet and hang out in a group of people with an interest you can't begin to understand.
Pat back: LOL on Jo's prophetic words–hang out here with people so weird you can't begin to understand! So, what do you do to "fill the well of creativity"? Hobbies? I know Jen Stevenson does roller derby. Aggression, anyone?