We talk a lot about goals here in the ROW80 world. And goals are very good things. Goals—measurable, realistic goals—are vital to our writing. They help provide structure and discipline, two things many of us writers desperately need. I know I thrive when I’m at my most productive, churning out work and spending plenty of time filling the page. But we risk burnout if we’re all work and no play. And writers need play, creative time that allows us to flourish. In short, we need to fill the well.
How can we do this?
Take ourselves on “artist dates.”
This idea comes from author Julia Cameron, who writes in The Artist’s Way
“An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend against all interlopers. … Your artist is a child. Time with a parent matters more than monies spent. A visit to a great junk store, a solo trip to the beach, an old movie seen alone together, a visit to an aquarium or an art gallery—these cost time, not money.”
Buy scrapbooking supplies at a local craft school. Go for a solitary walk. Feed the birds at the local park. Meditate. Once a week, find some way to carve out time for your artist date. This is vital to keeping the well filled.
Explore other creative outlets.
Think beyond writing, beyond the page. Would you like to dabble in watercolors, strum a guitar, get your hands dirty and work with clay? Would you like to embrace your inner chef, turn your backyard into an oasis of flowers and herbs, redecorate your writing space? Anything from painting to gardening can be a creative activity, and we can find inspiration in these other outlets.
Change up our writing space.
Sometimes we need a change of scenery. If you usually write at home, try writing at a local coffee shop. If you write at a coffee shop, grab a notebook or your laptop and head out to a local park. We can find new inspiration from a change in surroundings—plus, we’ll get to people watch, which often yields fresh new ideas. You never know where creativity is hiding.
Spend time in nature.
Nature is a creative force. Tiny green shoots burst from the earth. Birds build nests in the branches of a nearby maple tree. The sunset paints the sky in a wash of colors. Leaves blaze gold and scarlet in the autumn. Nature is constantly creating and transforming, so it can be a powerful source of inspiration for us creative types.
Even something small as walking on a summer morning, writing outside on a warm spring day, or watching the birds at the birdfeeder can inspire us. If we maintain a close connection with nature, regardless of whether we’re a city or country dweller, we maintain a connection to the source of creativity, to the most creative force there is.
Focus on what we’ve accomplished, not what we haven’t.
Goals are always forward looking and future oriented. They’re something we’ve yet to accomplish, and when we do achieve them, our first thought is usually, “What next?” Too often we focus on what we haven’t done, not what we have. We can foster a habit of shifting our focus to what we have done, not what we didn’t complete. We can savor small victories—exceeding our word count, finishing a project before deadline, even simply editing a page of work and knowing we’re leaving the story incrementally better than it was the day before.
Go ahead. Savor even the smallest of victories. Doing so can energize us, give us the boost we need to keep moving forward. If you’re having a particularly off day, try writing down a list of what you did accomplish that day, anything from sewing a button onto a shirt to taking a child to the dentist to reading a few chapters in a book. This forces us to focus on what we’ve done instead of what we haven’t.
Ultimately, our creativity needs to be fed. Most writers I know have no shortage of ideas. But fueling creative energy is vital to sitting down at the page and getting those ideas out of our heads and into the hands of readers. We just have to remember to fill the well.