Filling the well is an expression I used in my creative classes at FIDM to talk about how to managing creative energy. From the outside it seems like creativity is something that just exists—that you are creative, or not. In that vein, I am sometimes asked whether I can actually teach someone to be creative. I can. What I can’t teach is creativity. That is an internal resource that we all have, to varying degrees, and at different levels of development.
Filling the Well: Manage Your Resources
Like all resources, creativity needs to be managed and nurtured. I remember worrying about coming up dry, and that can happen. But coming up dry doesn’t mean that the creativity is gone, it means that the water table has dropped below the level of the well and it is not currently available. Actions need to be taken to bring the water table back up where you can access it. This is what I mean by filling the well. If you do it as an ongoing thing, you may never notice that you do it, or never feel your well going dry. If you ever experience that horrible feeling of “Oh, no, I’ve got nothing!”, it may just be that you need to take some action to start filling the well. Sadly, most of us fail in the ongoing part of filling the well and find ourselves in crisis at some point.
Filling the Well: Ongoing Ways
I rarely have time for big creative actions, so I do little things so I don’t lose creative energy. These can be easy things like really paying attention to the photos you are taking, enjoying looking at the yarn you have, thinking about the next project(s) you have coming up, looking at magazines (I still believe paper is more powerful than pixels), reading a book, letting yourself daydream, admiring the produce at a farmer’s market, or the architecture on a walk, taking in the August flowers.
There are bigger things you can do like a trip to a museum, going to a performance, even watching a good TV or a movie. Maybe you get jazzed when you go out to dinner? Take a hike? Sometimes all you need is to look around you and appreciate the things that you have accumulated in your environment. I often find baking or making tomato sauce or granola are all I need to do to kick a little something into the creative well.
Filling the Well: Big Refills
What if you have really let that well get dry and refilling it isn’t a small endeavor? It is still possible to get to filling that well, even if you are empty. First, don’t panic! It isn’t gone, it is just neglected. It will take a little more to reactivate it, but don’t worry, it can be done. Think about things that make you happy and that give you lots of pleasure. Not things you should do! If you don’t like museums, don’t do that–love to play with your dog,? Do that! Creativity isn’t about shoulds. It is about enjoying, challenging, building, creating. When you are going about filling the well you need to go easy at first. This is not the time to learn to draw–maybe finger paints! You are literally going for quantity of pleasure. A bath? A good book? Time with friends? Travel is probably one of the best well-fillers ever. Plan a trip—think of all the ways you can replenish while you are outside your usual routines and environment.
Need Ideas for Filling the Well?
- CreativeBug has a challenge this month.
- Make a list of things you’d like to do, but don’t currently do.
- Plan a new project (don’t start it–just plan it!)
- Rearrange the furniture, books, yarn, whatever.
- Make granola! Granola Recipe
- Take a walk, try a new route.
- Go to a performance, movie, play.
- Meet up with friends.
Photos: From Top down on Left:
- Hollyhock and an apartment building door on my way home from the grocery.
- Sunset reflected in the side of a building.
- Robyn Holcomb performing at the Royal Room with Zuny Marsh
- Flowers sitting on the sideboard in the living room
- Funicular in LA—it wasn’t running. I remembered it was there and Mitch found it.
- My yarn shelves, nicely sorted.
- Christo at the MOCA in LA.
- Making tomato sauce.