I love to be creative. The past two years I have been through a period of intense creativity and inspiration. It has been an amazing journey into the creative unknown, and a feeling of coming home to myself. I’m finally feeling like I’ve found my true creative center.
But right now, after a hard year of work and creative exploration, I’m feeling a little spent. I go to sit down with my art journal and paints, and feel aimless. I try to write a blog post, and feel stuck. I’m even feeling disinterested in picking up my written journal, which is strange because I’ve been writing most days since early this year.
At first, I panicked. All the lovely inspiration and excitement about my creativity was gone! I worried it was a phase, a one-off, a part of my history.
Now, I’m feeling pulled to do things like watch TV shows, read, sleep or browse aimlessly online. I’m trying to want to create, but am finding myself wanting to rest and zone out instead.
Why? Because my creative well is empty. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says,
In order to create, we draw from our inner well… we must learn to be self-nourishing… to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them.
I’ve spent the whole year creating – both at home for myself and at work for others. I’m drained.
This is reassuring in this time of creative down-time.
I’m not out of creativity – I just need to refill my creative well.
I think this is something we all need, in order to keep creating. Creativity requires an outpouring of energy from us, so we must refill that in some way.
Cameron goes on to say,
The artist brain is the sensory brain: sight and sound, smell and taste, touch. These are the elements of magic, and magic is the elemental stuff of art. In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not think what you should do… Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you.
This is going to look different for everyone. What inspires and excites one person will possibly bore someone else senseless.
So, in order to refill the creative well, we need to engage our senses. While this can include just bringing presence and awareness to more everyday tasks, I’m looking for something to shake up my routine and reignite the inspiration I was feeling earlier this year.
This could be simply going to a new cafe or bookstore that you’ve not yet explored, or it could be taking a drive to a different part of town, or it could be taking some time to go to a new city or country. It doesn’t have to be huge, just go somewhere you’ve not been before, and pay attention to what’s around you. Take your journal and note down what you can see, smell, taste, hear and feel.
This might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but it might be that you are simply tired or burnt-out after a period of creativity or work, and you just need to get your body (and spirit) back into balance. Creativity requires an expenditure of energy and this can be too demanding if we are already feeling run-down. Take some guilt-free time to nap, sleep late, curl up on the couch with a movie, lie in the sun and just be still. After a while you will be itching to get back into it!
3. Go somewhere you find inspiring
This could be an art gallery, your local library, a favourite restaurant, a scenic lookout with a fantastic view, a favourite hiking spot, a secluded beach, a music store, an art store… whatever it is that reminds you about the creative possibilities for your life. Take your journal and freewrite about the feelings of inspiration that arise.
4. Do something new
Listen to music you’ve not listened to before, try a new food or recipe, read a book by a new author, watch a film that is a different genre to your usual favourites, meet new people in a class or meetup group, learn a new skill like dancing, knitting, guitar, or even just rearrange the furniture in your house. Surprise and delight your senses by doing something unexpected. Make a list in your journal of things you’ve always wanted to try and do one of them.
5. Get rid of stuff
It’s easy to slowly accumulate things: clothes we don’t wear, art supplies we don’t use, books we don’t read, sports gear and fitness equipment that started with the best intentions… after a while this can feel overwhelming. The physical space this excess stuff fills also spills over into our creative space. You need to make room, both physically and spiritually, for inspiration to flourish and your creativity to bloom. In your journal make a list of 5 things you could get rid of every day for the next 30 days, either big or small. Sell them or donate them to charity – either way, you will start to notice a space opening up as you make room for your creativity and inspiration.
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Regardless of what you do, Cameron notes that paying attention is most important: put your phone away, your laptop away, take your headphones out of your ears, stop worrying and be present.
In your journal, note down which of the above ideas appeals most to you. It could be helpful to write your own list of ways to fill your creative well when you are feeling drained, so that you can easily turn to it to find inspiration again.
How do you fill your creative well? Share in the comments below.