Refilling Your Creative Well

When the Waterworld Mermaids blog first started three years ago, I wrote a post about the Artist Date and my hobby of making bento box meals for my kids. For those of you who don’t remember, Julia Cameron defines the Artist Date as apintip time used to nurture our inner artist and a way to refill our creative well. (THE ARTIST’S WAY, 20-21).

In the past few weeks, I have found myself in desperate need of refilling my well. Lots of things can suck your creativity dry, some writing-related and some not. Health issues, money problems, fatigue, and the loss of a loved one, to name a few. Rejections, revisions, and less-than-stellar reviews, to name some others.

Whatever your reason, if you find yourself in need of an Artist Date, here are some suggestions:

1. Plant a garden. Buy some potted plants, seeds, soil, planters and dig in. Get your hands dirty. Nurture your plants, day after day, and revel in the pure joy of growing something.

2. Get a mani/pedi with your daughter, niece, or neighbor’s kid. Pampering yourself at the salon is a treat in and of itself. But experience it anew through the eyes of someone who’s not used to such an outing. I guarantee you’ll gain a fresh appreciation for something you may have been taking for granted.

3. Go fruit-picking — and make a fresh fruit pie. I believe strawberries are in season at the moment, but blueberries, cherries, and blackberries are coming right up. My personal favorite is raspberry pie — but regardless of flavor, let that freshly-picked taste burst in your mouth. There’s nothing quite like it.

4. Flex your creative muscle — in an area outside of your comfort zone. If you’re a writer, dance. If you’re a dancer, paint. If you’re a painter, make some music. In particular, I would suggest going to pottery painting studio, where they have all the equipment you need and you just pay for the cost of a certain piece. I have spent many relaxing hours creating fun, moderately attractive pieces at these places.

5. Go out to dinner — at a new restaurant, or better yet, in a cuisine in which you’re unfamiliar. What better way to stimulate the senses by trying something utterly new? And if you can taste yummy food while you’re at it, even better. Best of all? Invite a friend along for the outing, someone who connects with your creative self, and before you know it, your well will be overflowing.

So what do you think, mermaids and friends? What suggestions do you have, or what fun Artist Dates have you been on lately? Please share! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

34 thoughts on “Refilling Your Creative Well

  1. Morning Pintip. First I want to send you some love and hugs. If I could, I’d drop a pretty yellow flower at your doorstep to brighten your day.

    The quickest way for me to freshen up the creative well is to just hop in the car and go for a drive. This weekend I went down to Charlottesville to watch a family friend play a scrimmage soccer game. We ended up eating in the charming downtown and it was graduation day so we sat in the diner’s outside seating area and watched all the new college graduates walking by with their families. It was spontaneous and felt good. So that’s my trick. Hop in the car and land somewhere you’ve never been. Grab a bite to eat and people watch.


  2. Pintip,
    Great post on creativity and how to get it back when we feel like we’ve lost it. Many times it’s not so much lost as misplaced. 🙂 Since I can’t sing/play the pianoforte, I usually go the crafty route. I can’t paint or draw or anything like that, but there’s a sense of fun and creativity in small projects. I secretly loved helping my kids with their school projects even though I pretended not to. I can’t tell you how many shrinky dinks we’ve incorporated into projects. lol. We probably have a million colored pencils in our house just from those. We would buy our own sheets and draw our own designs, and then shrink them down. We even used to do it with favorite book covers/characters, so I incorporated writing/reading into them anyway. I’m sneaky.
    A couple years ago I got into making bottle cap pins, and those were super fun. We made them for our Hunger Games party. Then I made them for all my mermaid friends. 🙂 So, even when I’m trying to be creative, writing/reading still works its way in.
    There must be something tied together with writers and other kinds of creativity. I’ve seen so many writers pull out yarn and start clicking away with needles (is that what they’re called???) during a talk or at retreats/conferences.
    When I put my writing down for a while because nothing seems to click or else I’ve just finished a rough draft, I told myself I shouldn’t read as much because it might influence my own writing. Every time I take a break from reading, I feel lonely. It’s weird. So, for me, I can’t take a break for too long. My best days are getting my favorite drink (coffee, tea, maybe a mojito) and sitting on my porch and reading a favorite author’s new book. Sometimes that’s my reward. Finish my book–get to read someone else’s. Yesterday I ordered the newest Darynda Jones’s (SIXTH GRAVE ON THE EDGE,) so it should be arriving at the tail end of my revisions. The book might stare at me and taunt me for a few days, but it will just get me motivated to Finish.My.Damn.Book. 🙂
    Good luck refilling your creative well. 🙂 Also, it’s better to try to fill it slowly midway before you realize it’s bone dry. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way. It’s like rehydrating. If you drink lots of water throughout the day, you never get dehydrated. It’s only when you forget to drink throughout the day that you end up feeling dizzy or get a headache. And then you gulp it, and THAT just makes you feel sick. lol. Slow sips. Periodically. That’s the best.
    Off to revise. Care to sprint? 🙂

    1. Hi Kim! The problem is when you buy a book and don’t have the will-power to stay away from it. Ha ha. I hear you on the kids’ activities. I love doing art projects with the kids because a) it fills me with that same joy and wonder I had as a kid, and b) I didn’t do nearly enough crafty projects when I was young. Although – incidentally – these are some of my fondest memories from childhood . Interesting, huh? I still have and love my bottle cap pin! And you’re right, better to fill the well throughout rather than wait for it to become bone dry. I’m working on it though, and it is slowly but surely filling up again. And of course I want to sprint! 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

  3. Thank you, Carlene. I love pretty yellow flowers, and my day is brightened already because it’s the thought that counts! I love your suggestion. I had a friend in law school who used to do that — just get in the car and drive when she felt stressed or overwhelmed. More often than not, she would end up at the beach. 🙂 I’m not as creative as to my driving destinations but I’ll keep that one in mind! Sounds like such a lovely day! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  4. Hi Pintip! Great post. When I notice the well running dry, I realize it’s time to MAKE time to read. It’s easy to tell yourself you’ve got so much to do that you must go from one manuscript directly into the next. That’s where I am, anyway. But when I’ve taken a little time away to really enjoy someone else’s writing, I’m refreshed and reminded of all the important elements of a great story, and that helps me when I dive back into my own work. Sounds like I might need to try getting a little crafty, too. 🙂 Love Carlene’s tip, too. Wish we could all run away and have lunch together today!

    1. Amy, I wish we could have lunch today, too! That would definitely fill my creative well! I totally agree with you about the reading — although I find it incredibly hard to read while I’m actively writing. My MO is generally to go on reading binges in between mss and read 10-20 books. And then I’ll usually read a few while I’m writing or in between different stages of the writing. I also think reading different types of books inspires me in different ways. Thanks so much for stopping by and good luck with the reading!

  5. For me, what seems to get the juices going is anything that makes my hands move. Or any place where my computer isn’t.

    My never-fails?
    1) Crocheting or any needlework. I’ve been crocheting since I was 8, so it’s mindless for me. But it gets my hands moving so my brain can do its things. I only started knitting a couple years ago, so it takes more of my brain to do it. But it’ll work in a pinch too.
    2) Dishes. Or cleaning in general. If I’m having plotting issues, I do dishes. If that doesn’t work, I clean something out. The garage. Closets. Cabinets. Or I paint something. Rooms in my house. Closets that desperately need it.
    3) The shower. It’s the ultimate place my computer isn’t. Seems like somewhere between shampoo and conditioner, my brain goes, “Oh hey! You can’t write this down! So let me give you your very best ideas starting… now.”

    1. Marnee, lol. The shower is like that for me, too, as well as waking up in the middle of the night. (Just had a light bulb moment last night, actually.) but cleaning? Really? Dishes? Organizing closets? Wow. I’m jealous. You must be a really good multi-tasker. Truth is, I don’t know if that would work for me, since the last thing I feel like doing when I’m stuck on a plot point is cleaning. Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂

  6. I love your post, Pintip. I am always looking for ways to refill my creativity well!

    Some of my favorites include: photography (especially children and gardens), work in my garden, write in my visual journal (it’s a large spiral-bound notebook which includes pasted-in pictures or photographs. It’s arts and crafts for adults!), I love to shop in antique shops, and I love to visit museums.

    And if nothing else works, I take along walk through the nearby woods. 🙂

    1. Sharon, I love your photos, so I’m not at all surprised that it is one of your ways for refilling the well. I’m not much of a photographer myself, but I love slowing down and appreciating just how beautiful a single frame — of something — can be. The visual journal sounds awesome — I’d love to see it sometime! And I also love taking walks. It always puts my life in perspective. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. I just happen to be a bit mentally drained this week so I’m going for a mani/pedi tonight. Can’t wait! Other things I like to do include taking a long bubble bath (with romance novel to accompany me of course), trying a new recipe, rearranging furniture or redecorating a room in my house. All of your suggestions are great! I love to cook, but I’m not much of a baker. Maybe it’s time to try a pie though…. 😉

    1. Kerri, Yay for your mani/pedi tonight! I haven’t had one in a while, but I’ve promised me (and my daughter) one as a reward for finishing the revisions. Bubble baths, with wonderfully scented soaps, are also great, although I have to admit, they’re less appealing now that the weather is warming up. I’m sure that Harry also brings you wonderful amounts if inspiration! Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Great advice, Pintip. I’ve been going through the same thing, sort of like a deer in the headlights. Pedi done, gardening done, tackling some others this week.

    1. That’s awesome, Shelly! I’m sure you’ll get out of the deer-in-headlights phase in no time. And if you find you’re still stuck — you know where to turn! Your DreamWeaver sisters are here for you! Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂

  9. Pintip – lovely post.

    When the bucket is empty and needs refilling:

    I go for a walk – outside. For me, walking on a treadmill is tortuous, walking around the neighborhood is a source of inspiration.

    Or – I throw the kiddos in the car and we take a day trip. A change of scenery can work wonders.

    And finally – stream of consciousness writing. Sitting at a coffee shop and writing descriptions of the people around me, what I’m thinking, feeling, etc… seems to turn on the spigot of creativity.

    1. Great suggestions, Julie. I’ve never tried sitting in a coffeeshop and writing descriptions of the other people. Escalating people-watching to another level! I’ll keep that one in mind. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Pintip, I’m with you. Cleaning never refills my creative well. Just ask my dust bunnies.
    I get away from the usual writing spaces. I walk, shop (not the grocery/errand kind), have tea or lunch, go to a movie with friends or family.~Jillian

    1. Hi Jillian! Exercising or clearing your mind can do wonders. Sometimes I find that I am more productive overall after taking a break. Glad to hear someone else feels the same way I do about cleaning, ha ha. Thanks for stopping by!!

  11. Great ideas, Pintip! Sometimes when I’m stuck I go for a walk. Something about the rhythmic slap of shoe rubber on asphalt greases the brain cogs. For feeling completely dry, I read or watch a movie, or basically anything that gets me out of the house. I’m headed to beautiful Yosemite this weekend (friends have a family cabin just inside the park) and I’m looking forward to filling my nature appreciation reservoir.

    1. Oooh, Yosemite. Lucky girl. My favorite way of refilling the well is to experience some breathtaking natural beauty. This was so much easier when I lived in the Bay Area. Big Sur, Sausalito, the redwood forests, wine country — taking a trip to one of these places never failed to inspire me. Have fun, Carrie! And thank you so much for sharing!

  12. Funny, I always figured as the kids got OLDER it would get EASIER to find the time to refill the well…great theory. *sigh* Not so much in reality. It’s surprisingly hard to make yourself make the time to do something, especially around a full-time job, kids, and a writing career. But you are so right–we NEED to do it. When I start feeling down, I usually find I’ve stopped reading books for fun–so I try to make the time for that, and kick myself for neglecting that aspect once I start up again. Lately, gardening has seemed too much like housework…I’m going to try painting again, which is something I’ve always enjoyed.

    1. Rowan, it is such a difficult juggle, and I was musing to my husband last night how anybody does it. I think you should take up painting again! I’m not much of an artist myself, although I’ve always loved it. One of the first artist dates I ever took was to buy a sketch pad and some colored pencils and to just draw. Even though I had no idea what I was doing. Turned out, I wasn’t half-bad. Not good, but not bad. More importantly, it was fun! Good luck with the painting, and thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. I just left this site and was looking at a slide show of Ray Bradbury’s home that’s for sale now and found this quote from him: “If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful,” he once said. “I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting. I wake early and hear my morning voices leaping around in my head like jumping beans. I get out of bed to trap them before they escape.”
    I love it!

  14. Hugs on the things that are draining your well, Pintip! I love the idea of planting and nurturing a garden, and weeding can be quite meditative.

    Things I do to refill my well include re-reading a favourite book, watching old movies, and making websites for my friends. 😉 Honestly, doing something that’s creative but not writing-related keeps me from obsessing too much about publishing.

    1. Lol, Vanessa! I guess your well must be overflowing after last month, then! 🙂 🙂 I agree with you. Exercising one set of creative muscles strengthens all of them! Thanks for stopping by. Hugs.

  15. Hi Pintip,
    Great post, and I’ve been enjoying the comments. I tend to be guilty of working until the well is dry too, even if I know better. My garden always needs weeding, and going out to wrestle them instead of plot issues can be helpful. A good brisk walk can shake out the cobwebs (and escape the doldrums). And like a few others here, I’m big into crafts, and often something that keeps my hands and part of my brain focus leaves the rest to think up new plot ideas. 🙂 Reading a fun book without analyzing it helps, as well as super dry research (my brain jots plot ideas in the margins to escape I think.) Finally, a good bargain hunt with friends is a dose of fun and play,which we all need no matter how old we get (perhaps more as we forget the importance of play.)

    So let yourself step back, play, get some fresh air and fun, and I hope you’re feeling the creativity whirl soon. 🙂

    1. Great advice, S.C.! I think the key word here is “play” — anything that doesn’t feel like work, whatever that means to each of us. I love all of your suggestions, and I think it’s great that you know yourself so well that you know exactly what you need to do to get yourself unstuck. Thank you so much for stopping by.

  16. Pintip – I remember your awesome Bento boxes still today. Gorgeous!

    This is a GREAT list of creativity bucket re-fillers. A number of years ago, I was introduced to the concept of “action begets emotion.” What I like about all your suggestions is that they are positive steps toward a desired goal. A phrase I often use in tandem with the above is “working will where wishing won’t.” Instead of moping about a dry well, I can prime the pump with an item or two on this list until my bucket overfloweth. Love it!

    1. Aw, thank you, Keely! I loved making those bento boxes but got out if the habit when my daughter decided she didn’t want to eat anything with a “face” on it. They were “too cute” to eat, which kinda defeats the purpose of making the fun lunches! I still do it every once in a while, although I have to make sure hers are in the shape of flowers or other objects without faces. I love that phrase — “working will when wishing won’t.” I never thought as the artist dates as “work,” but you’re right. At least it is doing something instead of sitting around complaining. Thanks so much for stopping by, Keely! Best of luck priming your pump!

  17. It sounds kind of lame, but a long, quiet walk, preferably in the woods, has always been just what I needed when I thought there wasn’t another creative idea anywhere to be found in my head…

    1. Not lame at all! I love long quiet walks in the woods. There’s something very grounding and freeing and inspiring about nature. All three are important attributes of refilling the well. Thanks for stopping by, McCall!

  18. I’m late to the party!

    Sometimes I just need to have a cup of tea and read a book. But I also get so lovely ideas when I take long drives. Some of my best brainstorming occurs in the car. Have no idea why!

    1. Hi Nan! Thanks for stopping by! The party’s always more fun when you’re around. 🙂 I only get ideas in cars IF I’m driving – isn’t that funny? I guess otherwise, I’m too busy trying to avoid being carsick. 🙂

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