Re-Filling the Creative Well
Creating worlds from scratch is tough work. Fun and fulfilling, but tough. This means that sometimes our writer brains and Creativity Well get depleted. We’ve used up everything we had and we can’t even remember the word for the washer thingy in the kitchen!
I like to think of the Creative Well as a real stone well, like from the “Jack and Jill went up a hill” story. It’s tall and round and sits in the middle of my brain. It is usually full; not of water but of ideas and characters and premises and worlds. It’s where I go every time I sit down to write. I drop a pail into the well and pull up a bucket of magic.
Eventually, though, that well will run dry. Sometimes it happens at the end of a project; sometimes in the middle. It happens to a lot of us writers, and it happens frequently. We drop that bucket, expecting to pull up words and ideas, only to find it’s full of absolutely nothing.
But we don’t have to panic! It’s just our minds telling us that it’s time to refill the Creative Well.
I know a lot of writers (myself included) have a hard time resting. If I’m not working every hour that I’m awake, I feel unproductive. It has taken me years to understand that my Creative Well is talking to me, and it demands refilling. Rest is not unproductive. In fact, it’s a part of the process. It’s like filling up your car’s gas tank before a cross-country road-trip. People call that smart! They call it planning ahead! They call it necessary.
So how do you do this necessary work of resting and refilling the Creative Well? There are a thousand ways! But what I like to do is think outside of my mind. What the heck does that mean? To me, it means turning my thinking off and turning my doing on. Here are four ways I do that.
When my Creative Well depletes, the first thing I’ll do is turn to other media. I’ll binge watch TV shows, anime, and movies. I’ll look at art or magazines, listen to podcasts and music, or invest time in interviews and documentaries. What I won’t do is take notes. I won’t compare my ideas. I won’t try to think my way through to cleverly figure out plot twists or guess an ending. I do not give of myself — I merely receive, taking in everything someone else’s Creative Well brought forth.
I love walking. Something about the act just fires up my brain. When I actively shut that off, my senses activate. I notice the colors and sounds and nuances of the place I am in. I feel the experience, rather than imagine it, and the images and emotions seed into my mind, dropping into the Creative Well to be used at another time.
Until last year I couldn’t remember the last time I had colored. Or painted, or tried sculpting, puzzles, and knitting. It is very relaxing! There are tons of great adult coloring books out there. And painting? There are now places where you can be guided through a painting, while drinking a glass of wine! And that thousand-piece puzzle you put together? You can frame it and hang in your office. It’ll be the perfect reminder that resting is good, for the soul and for your creativity. And let’s not forget about food! Cooking and baking bring the analytic and sensory sides of your brain together. Plus, you get to eat something delicious afterward! I also recently re-found board games and was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. Not only do these use different parts of my brain, for strategy or trivia or charades, but I get to play with friends. I’m no longer alone with a blank page and the voices in my head.
I talk to people! When you’re out walking or taking a painting class, make new friends (you can invite them over for game night!). Or, you know, see the ones you already have that you’ve probably not seen in a while since starting that new project a few weeks (gasp, months!) ago. Listen to their stories, connect on an emotional level, get some cool new recipes to try out! Talk about everything and anything this is not your book, that is not writing, that is not your creative pursuit. Take an interest in their pursuit and their dreams. What lights other people up? What cool adventures can you go on together? Or even just hear about? Those will drop into your Creative Well, too. They’ll mix in with the other ingredients and before you know it, more magic will have spawned.
This is not an exhaustive list of ways to refill the well. I’m also not suggesting that you have to do all of these at once, or even do them forever. But when your Creative Well runs dry and the writing feels like a slog, give yourself permission to take the next step in the writing process: rest. And enjoy it! Your future readers will thank you.
So what will you do today to refill your Creative Well?
Written by Alysha Welliver
Alysha Welliver is a Sri-Lankan and German American author and screenwriter. She has a passion for marginalized representation in publishing and works part-time as a bookseller/event planner. Alysha is also an Author Mentor Match Round 9 mentor and member of her local SCBWI chapter. You can find her talking about all things writing on Instagram @alyshasbooks.