Filling the Creative Reservoir

Life with all its stresses can be a drag on your creativity. And yes, we all know about the writers and artists who use their anger, pain, and frustration as source material for their work. But what if your crappy, exhausting job, bills, debt and student loans, managing your kids’ school activities and issues, and if you’re a part of the sandwich generation, taking care of aging parents, isn’t proving to be terribly inspiring? When you do find a spare minute to yourself and finally sit in front of the screen or the canvas, then nothing comes. All those daily anxieties push out the great ideas that used to wake you up in the middle of the night. Can you force yourself to be creative? Or is it hopeless?

Take a look at it this way: some of those ‘daily grind’ things we do involve being creative. Things like parenting, successfully carrying out the tasks of your employment, cultivating your relationships and cooking meals for your family. When we appreciate that we are being creative in our daily routine, we must then figure out how to cultivate creativity for our artistry. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking, ‘what if…?’ and letting your mind answer the question with all the possibilities.

Remember that your talents have already manifested themselves. If you’ve been creative in the past, you can be again. Reflect on those past achievements. While it’s true that creativity may come naturally to some, many successful artists and writers have simply nurtured their creativity over time. You see what I’m saying? They worked at it. The writer or artist who sits staring at the blank screen or canvas waiting for inspiration to strike is going to be waiting a long time. Inspiration comes not just from within but also from without. We must take the initiative to find it.

Read other authors in your genre. Read other authors outside of your genre, including non-fiction. Watch films, television programs, go to the theater. Go outside and move your body. And for Pete’s sake, turn off the podcasts and the news and refresh your mind with some quiet time. Listen to music. Go to the art museum, or even a small gallery and take time to study the paintings, photographs or sculptures. Spend time with your friends, especially those who also have creative pursuits. Join a book club – you might be able to find one through your local library or independent book store. Take an evening art class, even if it’s way below your skill level. You’ll always learn at least one new thing. Spend time with people who inspire you, rather than drain you. Granted, we can’t all hang out with our heroes but this is the time to read interviews, listen to lectures or read their biographies.

And since we began this discussion by acknowledging the scarcity of free time, I’m by no means advocating ALL of those suggestions. Just pick one that fits into your schedule. Above all, don’t get discouraged. If the creative reservoir seems dry, it might take a little time to fill it back up again. Start adding just one bucket full at a time.

38 thoughts on “Filling the Creative Reservoir

      1. I hear you! I was thinking of her when I was writing parts of this…. She says she can’t write anymore but she writes great blog posts so I know she can still write! I suggested she tell true stories about her life/childhood/college years until she has a new idea for fiction. I’m glad you got her to do the photo challenge!

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  1. Fantastic post, Meg. I find more and more these days that I am run-down and not finding the time to be as creative as I used to. I find I have periods where I leave my blog as an empty, blank space because I either don’t have time to write, or having nothing to write about. This lack of creativity actually tends to bring with it discontent and anxiousness, and it’s when I’m at my peak levels of expression when I feel best and most confident in life. It’s great to try and stay on top if it, squeeze those extra moments in, or find new ways to suit our ever-busy schedules.

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    1. I always feel my best when I’m expressing myself creatively too. When the routine of daily life intrudes, having even a short time to think about creative pursuits is refreshing! Even if I don’t actually have the time to write something – jotting down notes with my ideas feels like a small accomplishment! Nice to see you Shaun! I hope you can find some time to rest and recharge! 😃

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  2. This was a timely post for me to read! I have just written my first post in about 6 months – I found I wasn’t moved to say anything so I knew I couldn’t write anything I would be happy with. However, as your post says, we are creative in other ways, some less obvious than others. So while I;ve been away from here, I have been painting, painting painting!

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  3. While it’s extremely important for writers to avail themselves of many and varied opportunities for developing their creativity, they can also distill the daily grind into relevant bits for fiction. Not all stories should have their characters careering nonstop from one adventure directly into another; in fact, such a story would be implausible, not to mention exhausting to read.

    It’s also highly unlikely that characters would always happen to be just idly sitting around talking to one another whenever a scene includes dialogue; most real people multitask, and fictional people need to have something to do with their hands, too. Working into a story smidgens of routine living helps round out character development, as well as being a way to make the setting feel more real to readers.

    A realistic story arc is not like an isolated hill for characters to climb; it’s a mountain range with heights they must ascend and depths into which they must descend. This example (https://wp.me/p30cCH-1Iy) shows the major peaks and valleys; the actual routes that characters must navigate for their stories to be interesting are full of minor serrations, too.

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    1. Absolutely. A balance is needed for both the character and the reader to catch their breath. Including the tasks of daily life is a great way to show a character’s personality and talents too. When nothing is exciting is happening it gives us time to explore a bit of background and biography – just as interesting and important to the story. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Christine.

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  4. I have guilt on top of all the other stuff. Even unemployed, I’m drained and tired and can’t seem to find any inspiration. So how is it that I *do* have the time, yet I’m still stuck? Guilt. People would be thrilled to have time like I do. But I am having a lot of trouble doing… doing anything. I think you have great advice and suggestions. I wish I could do at least one of them. I’m messed up…

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    1. I think worrying about it is its own challenge. Like it compounds the lack of inspiration. I’m glad you’re trying the photography. That is a great start! You are a talented and creative person, Sandra. Don’t get discouraged. You will find your inspiration again. Keep looking for it! ❤️

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  5. The one sentence which sums up the whole thing would be ‘spend time with people who inspire you rather than drain you’. I love it. Easier said than done of course, since we always seem to have such people somewhere around us if not in the family itself. Lots of good suggestions there but i think you can add ‘meditation’ to it. It has a calming effect on you which can, in turn, give you the required inspiration.

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    1. An excellent suggestion. The world is so chaotic, we need time to just quiet our minds and let go of those stresses. Often times we have no choice but to be with people that drain us. We work with them or they could even be members of the family. Meditation is a great way to restore your soul!

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  6. Oh you are a wise lady Meg!
    We all have temporary blockages, and some last for a very long time.
    I find that it helps me to discipline myself to maintain at least a couple of regular posts each week.
    I read a lot of posts, and try to comment on many too. There are some that are de rigueur. I must read them, like, and comment if it adds to their value.
    I do not meditate in any recognised manner, but I do tell my cat about my day if I have any concerns to offload. She is a very good listener, even concentrating when comatose!

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    1. You have a good approach, Peter. There is a certain amount of discipline necessary to be consistently creative. I’ve had blockages that I’ve just had to write though. Which means I’ve mostly written garbage! But it can get you past the stumbling block and on to the good stuff! And don’t worry I talk to my cat too!

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  7. Excellent post – you are bang on with this! It can sometimes feel like the creative well has run dry, but there’s almost always something you can do to get things going again. And then, one small creative act tends to lead to another and before you know it it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to bring all the ideas to fruition!

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