Friday, October 29, 2010

Running Dry

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?

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12 comments:

Laure Ferlita said...

Hmmm, what a timely post! As I feel pretty crunchy myself! I'm think travel might be a good antidote to this dryness. Sometimes being in a different "environment," whether it's on the other side of town or the other side of the state helps. Walks out in nature, doing something that really pushes me out of my comfort zone also help. As does a good night's sleep!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

I agree--a change of scenery is a good well-filler, whether it's an actual trip, or just a walk in a different part of town. And everything looks brighter after a good night's sleep.

Danielle said...

My problem is not having enough time lately for creative things. I keep looking at my needlework wanting to stitch, but by the time I get a chance to sit down and do it I am so tired I can't make myself pick up the needle. I like the idea of getting away--some new scene with different visuals for inspiration!

Meredith said...

All wonderful suggestions, Kathy! I so enjoyed your well-written post.

My inner well has been less than overflowing lately, and I was just telling myself I need to start doing artist dates again, formally, and not just taking another walk in the woods behind the house, calling that good enough. I need to get more creative and serious about the time I take for me & my artist child. :)

Julie Jeffs said...

How timely your post, feeling rather dry myself. I have been secretly wanting to get an artists sketch book and try just some fun sketching and journaling to get the creative juices flowing. Mind you I can't draw .... at all, but it just looks so fun I may give myself permission to try. Just don't tell anyone, okay?

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Danielle--It's tricky finding enough time and energy to do all of our daily tasks and still have enough remaining for creative endeavors. That's one of my biggest challenges--having enough energy to do the creative thing rather than collapse on the couch and watch TV. I guess we just keep at it, little by little!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Meredith--So good to have you back! The familiar and soothing things do have their place--but maybe your inner artist/child is ready for something new? I think maybe mine is--maybe that's why I'm feeling a little parched.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Julie--that sounds like a great idea. Sketching and journaling are great fun, and no one has to see what you do, so there should be no pressure. Danny Gregory has written a couple of fun books about journaling you might like to take a look at.

freebird said...

I like to take a class for something I haven't done yet. Also, I like to get together with my creative sister as she can inspire me yet again. The other thing that helps is if I need a gift to give. That makes my mind start working because of course, a gift has to fit the recipient so that gives me parameters to start with. So often it's starting from nothing that stops me.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

All great options for creative refreshment! It's especially fun, I think, to have another person involved...sometimes that really helps the ideas flow.

Krista Meister said...

I've been going through a dry spell myself... probably due to lack of time, getting busy for the holiday season, and general "blahness". Nothing interests me and when it does, I don't know where to start. So I decided to completely clean out my studio in the hopes that being surrounded by my art materials would inspire me, or reading art books. So far.... still don't feel like creating or being on the web. Perhaps after the New Year I'll be re-energized. Great post, Kathy, thanks for your ideas!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Good luck with your dry spell, Krista. I hope your reorganizing/reading helps recharge and refresh you. Sometimes just some time away, doing something completely different, can help, too.