Filling The Creative Well
When the writing’s going well, it’s easy to feel focused and in the zone. Nothing gets in the way of ideas flowing from my brain, out through my fingertips, and onto the page. Even daily chores and responsibilities don’t distract me from getting back to the work at hand. Then there are those other times when distractions tire me out and make me feel like I have nothing left to give. This happened to me recently so I decided to sit down and journal about how I’m feeling. In doing this, I can usually get to the bottom of the problem, or at the very least, express my frustration about why I’ve been unable to write.
I’ve been working on River of the Stick Wavers, which could best be described as Historical Fiction, for a number of years now. This involved an enormous amount of research before I could even consider writing anything. Now I’m on the home stretch working on my second edit. The stylistic edit gets down to those little, and oh so important, details of things like verbosity, run-on sentences, and grammar. During this time there have been days when I’ve questioned my ability as a writer, to the point where I’m afraid to put another word on the page. I started thinking, Oh my God, this is becoming a book. People are going to read it. What will they think of my efforts? “Do all writers deal with this?” I have to think that, yes they do.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned so much during the editing process thanks to my editor. She has challenged me to answer some tough questions about motivation, character development, and the significance of the title. But some days it can be emotionally draining getting inside a character’s head to figure out what’s going on in there. Not to mention making sure that historical details are accurate; that what a character says over here, jives with what comes later. There are so many details to consider.
Through all of this, I forgot one fundamental detail that I learned from Julia Cameron very early in my writing journey. You have to fill the creative well. In her first book, The Artists Way, and all her others for that matter, she talks about three basic ways to fill this well.
Morning Pages: Write three pages in long hand every day.
The idea is to get all your thoughts and frustrations onto the page. Whatever comes into your head is fine. Even if it’s garbage. If you dispose of the garbage in your Morning Pages, then it’s less likely to get into your real writing. It’s important to use a pen so there isn’t a third person (computer) between you and your thoughts.
The Artist Date: Give yourself permission to spend one hour each week doing something fun. This could be as simple as taking $10.00 to spend at the dollar store. Perhaps a trip to the museum, or a lecture, is more in keeping with your personality. That’s OK too. The important thing is to do something that makes you happy.
Walking: Get out of the house and out of your head. Walking makes you feel good, while your subconscious works on those plot changes all on its own without you’re even having to think about it.
Once I realized I needed to fill my own creative well, I was able to relax. I began to plan my own Artist Date.
My Artist Date was a writing workshop at the Lodge at Pine Cove, at the French River. It was a wonderful opportunity to be with other writers, learn new writing skills, as well as being away from the distractions of home. We went canoeing, hiking, ate fine food, and enjoyed the fall landscape.
Maybe there’s no writing workshop on your horizon. That doesn’t matter. The point is, to find something that you enjoy doing and do it. An Artist Date is a great way to reboot, recharge, and fill your own creative well. So what kind of Artist Date will it take to kick-start your writing?