If you work or play in a creative field such as writing, painting, quilting, making jewelry, etc., there will likely come a time when you find yourself running dry of ideas and inspiration—and sometimes even the will and desire to create. When this happens to me, it usually indicates a lack of “filling the well.” I’ve denied my inner artist raw materials with which to create new things, and it’s time for replenishment of emotional and physical resources.
Here are some things I've found help fill the well when I'm running dry:
Immerse yourself in something related to your own creative field. For me, that would be reading instructional material related to writing and/or reading good writing by authors I admire. Sometimes a good drenching with the words, images, music, and so on, by masters in your field will inspire and encourage you.
Try doing something unrelated to your field. If you write, try drawing or photography or needlework. If you paint, maybe try journaling or working with clay. You get the idea. You don’t have to master this new creative endeavor—just let your inner artist dip her toes into something new.
Get physical. Take a walk, dig in the garden, ride a bike, paint the living room. Often a mindless physical activity allows buried thoughts and ideas to bubble to the surface.
Go on a formal artist’s date, a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you set aside a chunk of time that is yours alone in which to explore, and you do your artist’s date alone. If someone is with you, he or she will subtly influence you, even if you don’t realize it. The artist’s date is for your inner child as well as your inner artist, and you might not feel as free to be yourself if you have a companion.
Artist’s dates can be of varying lengths, from 15 minutes to a whole day. I’ve taken my camera to a local botanical garden, gone solo to a matinee, and wandered through art supply and book stores. Other possibilities include going to a flea market or secondhand store, watching the sun rise or set, playing with Play-Doh or coloring in a coloring book—really anything you think will be fun for your inner artist/child to do.
Creativity must be nurtured. If you want to continue to live a creative life, you have to fill the well, not just continually draw from it. As Cameron notes, your inner artist needs pampering and she needs to be listened to. Stimulate your brain with new sights, sounds and activities, different from your normal routine. Take time to reflect on how you felt and what you learned.
I’ve been feeling a little dry lately and could use some new ideas for creative refreshment myself. What do you do to refill the well?