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The Empty Well: Keys to Staying Inspired and Juicy!

How can creative passion survive the brutal onslaught of daily life?

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated September 22, 2018

It's often said that you cannot draw water from an empty well. My grandfather, a well-driller who spent his life seeking sweet water, always said, "You'll know the worth of water when the well runs dry." I've often thought that he was right. Water is a precious element; and we cannot live without it. So, too, is the flow of creative juice — yet, no one tries to protect this natural resource, or stop it from being dammed, polluted, or otherwise interfered with. There are no laws stating that it's illegal to kill a dream — and yet, they die violent deaths every day. We murder them ourselves, or let others do it for us.

How can dreams and creative passion survive the brutal onslaught of daily life, especially in these uncertain times? It's tough to make a dream come true. It's hard work — and nobody else is going to do it for you. You've got to be stubborn, and willing to do some heavy lifting, to get the job done. It can be exhausting, all-consuming, and profoundly depressing when things aren't going well. It's all too easy to let your dreams get lost in the everyday muck and rabble of the mundane; or to help someone else's dreams get cooking while your own simmer forgotten on the back burner.

The most devastating creative block I've ever survived didn't feel like a block at all. It felt like a drought. It felt like all the good ideas had dried up and blown away. I didn't write anything that was worth a damn for months, and the truth is it almost drove me crazy. I was seriously considering checking myself into a mental institution when I finally got one blessed idea, and finally, finally, at last, I was able to write again. I wrote myself sane.

It poured out; and the river is still flowing with juicy ideas and inspirations and projects. Sure, I have my off days — I'm having one right now, as a matter of fact. I'm exhausted, I ache from working all day, I'm a little grouchy, and I need some chocolate. Enough said. The point is that I'm still here, typing away, anyhow. Why? Because it is what I was born to do, and I couldn't stop if I tried. But you shouldn't be asking me why — you should be asking me how.

How do I do it? How do I do it all, and make it look easy? I know how to hustle, and I'm a hard worker. I can think on my feet and roll with the punches when they come as well as the next person. But one thing I learned the hard way is that if I don't make the time and space to take care of myself and tend my garden of dreams carefully, I will crash and burn. The well will dry up, and I will surely go mad again. I fear this more than any monster or man, and so I have taken careful steps to avoid it.

Making sure I get enough sleep, fresh air, and exercise is essential. I'm happiest when I'm writing, or on a walk. When I feel healthy, I am full of energy to create. If I don't take care of myself, I pay the consequences. Ever try to write after a night of caffeine — induced insomnia? Ugh. Ever try to write with a hangover? It's like slogging through mud, uphill, both ways. When I don't over-indulge in the things that tempt me, I find I have a clearer head and more creative energy for my work. I'm not a saint, and I'm not perfect — but I strive to live a balanced and healthy life, because I know that this serves my art and feeds my soul.

The hard truth is that you cannot create unless you constantly replenish your well of creative juiciness. (Yes, everybody has one — even you!) This means taking care of yourself — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

I confess, I'm as guilty as the next woman. I say yes when I should say no. I volunteer to help someone else along the creative path, while my own dreams are left in limbo. I don't always take the time to relax and enjoy the wonderful unfolding of the creative process; I'm too focused on the end result. I also tend to be a workaholic, putting in long hours at my day job and longer hours in the studio after work. I write, even if I'm hungry, cranky, and tired — if I'm on a deadline, it's getting done. Those are the nights that I don't get enough sleep.

Creative work can be as intoxicating as any drug. I use my writing and art to escape reality; or day-to-day worries and stresses. In the studio, I often lose track of time. Before I know it, hours have gone by without a break from the page, or the canvas. Quite frankly, I'm exhausted — and when I'm exhausted, my work suffers. Writing this article is a reminder to myself of the consequences of pushing myself too hard. I'm not Super-Girl, or Wonder-Woman. My strength is mighty — but it has its limits.

And so, on days like today, when I'm feeling fried, I give myself the permission to take more naps. Naps definitely replenish your creative juiciness quotient. A little 20-minute power nap, and I'm a new woman. What else feeds my soul, and keeps my well of inspiration from running dry? What can you do to feel creatively juicy on a dry day?

Walk the dog. If you don't have a dog, go for a walk and find a dog to pet. They love it and it makes you feel good, too! Lay on the grass and watch the clouds sail by. Listen to the birds singing in the morning. Draw on your sidewalk with chalk. Stay up late. Sleep in even later. Have a pillow fight with someone you love. Love yourself first. Remember — no one is going to give you the time to work towards your goals — you have to take it.

You have to take it. Take more breaks. Go play outside. When was the last time you tossed a Frisbee, or slid down a twirly slide? The time is now. Go to your favorite library or bookstore and soak up the words. Let art books, photographs, museums, and random pieces of graffiti inspire you. Look for beauty everywhere, and don't go home until you find it. Take a long walk and write down all the words you see — signs, t-shirts, bumper-stickers. Cut them all out of your notebook when you get home, and arrange them until they make a poem. Refuse to settle for mediocrity. Do not pester yourself overlong with the opinions of others. Be extraordinary and unusual and fabulous in your own unique way, and it won't matter what the neighbors think.

Next: Playing with Paint: Let's Get Messy!

©2010 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.