What do you use for creative fuel? Do you use elements similar to your work, or do you need something completely different from it to stimulate it?
So often, there’s a delineation made between freelance work for others and creative work one does with fiction or music or painting or whatever. In reality, these are all aspects of our career. We shouldn’t feel forced to monetize everything we do – hobbies are meant to give pleasure. But working in more than one sphere shouldn’t make us feel divided. The elements should feed each other.
When I feel depleted, I need to look at the why:
–Am I working too many hours without a break?
–Do I need to eat or drink something?
–Am I doing work that I dislike?
–Are these tasks/assignments pulling me away from my overall vision, or a path toward them?
Sometimes, we’re just tired. Sometimes, we just feel down about life, the universe, and everything. Sometimes, it’s our subconscious and/or our bodies telling us we’re on the wrong track.
Refilling the creative well with fuel will help us figure out the root cause of the depletion so that we can deal with it, instead of making a temporary fix to get us through the day or the pay period.
Eating foods that energize you in healthy ways, staying hydrated, and taking breaks help keep the day on a more even keel. If it turns out the root cause of your dis-ease is that you are taking on work you don’t like, or you feel that the work you are doing pulls you away from your vision and/or your core integrity, you can sit down and figure out how to make changes. It might be a series of small shifts that add up; it might be a break from what’s holding you back and a completely new direction. But refilling the creative well will help you make those choices from a stronger, more grounded place.
If you’re working too many hours without a break, schedule your breaks like appointments, so that you will actually do them, rather than skipping them. After lunch, I take 30-60 minutes to sit in my reading corner and read something that I’m not being paid to read. Often, it’s re-reading other writers or artists talking about their work: Twyla Tharp, Hilma Wolitzer, Natalie Goldberg, Anne Truitt, Elizabeth Berg, etc. I find it refreshing, and it reminds me to take joy in the work.
I’m attempting to add in a mid-afternoon break, of about 20 minutes, to lie on my acupressure mat, after doing a few backbends or similar stretches to counteract the time spent hunched over a computer.
When the weather gets nice again (today it doesn’t feel like that will EVER happen, but it will), I hope, at least a few times a week, to take a late morning/early afternoon break either out at The Spruces Community Park or up at Windsor Lake. I might bring a book or a notebook and write there. Or I might just sit and BE.
Walks don’t do it for me. Every time someone swears whatever ails me will be fixed by “taking a walk” I want so scream. Walking stresses me out (unless I’m walking a labyrinth). Going into nature and being still there works better for me.
Again, when the weather gets better and I can actually go out and about, I’m going to re-instate the weekly Artist Date. This is a technique Julia Cameron first talked about in THE ARTIST’S WAY. Once a week, you go and do something just for you. My “artist dates” tend to be going to look at art, going to listen to music, or visiting a bookstore or library. Cameron encourages one to do it alone, but as someone who spends so much time alone, I sometimes prefer to do it with someone. And sometimes an artist date will mean attending a meetup or an event by a small local business.
If I’m feeling stuck on a project, often the best way for me to shake the words loose is to go and look at paintings or sculpture.
The irony of refilling the creative well is that, for it to work for me, it can’t feel like it’s related to the work when I go and do it. However, as a writer, EVERYTHING relates to the work, somehow. Every experience is material. That’s why nothing we do or feel, as artists, is ever wasted. It’s part of the whole of our lives and makes our practices more holistic.
What do you use as creative fuel?