Refilling the Well

A little while ago I wrote a review of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, after having “completed” the 12-week program. I put those quotation marks because whether or not I actually completed the program is actually up for debate. I did many of the tasks and exercises, but I also didn’t do a lot of them, if you know what I mean. If you read my review you’ll see that, in the end, I decided that the program was not for me. There were too many ideas and concepts that I just couldn’t quite agree with.

But there were a few things in the book that, when read, made me go “YES. Oh my flipping lord, YES.” One of those things was the concept of “refilling the well”. Basically, the idea is that we can wear ourselves out creatively. We can spend too much of our time and energy on the actual art, to the point that we’ve “drained the well”, so to speak. We run out of energy/ideas/creativity; we don’t know what’s wrong, exactly, but all of a sudden we find ourselves staring at a blank page without any idea of how to make use of it, or everything we create feels like complete and utter crap, or just the thought of working on our art anymore makes us want to burst into tears.

"Yep. Just as I thought. Dry as a bone." Image courtesy of Natasha Hanova
“Yep. Just as I thought. Dry as a bone.”
Image courtesy of Natasha Hanova

The suggestion, based on this phenomenon, is that creativity is a finite source, and we have to replenish it from time to time. It’s like calories; if we continuously burn more calories than we take in, we starve. If we use up all our creativity without shoring up our supply, we eventually run out and have nothing left to draw from.

So how exactly do we shore up our supply? Well, my experience thus far has been that the best way to rebuild creative stores is to allow yourself to experience other people’s creativity. Read books, watch movies, play video games. Allow yourself to enjoy and fully experience the creations of others. Say, for example, that you’ve been working on a science fiction novel. Take an evening and watch some classic sci-fi movies – you might just get some great ideas for that scene you’ve been stuck on. Working on something visual, like a painting, and not quite sure where you’re going with it? Spend a few hours on sites like Flickr and DeviantArt. Seeing how others have accomplished similar things might give you the spark you need to keep moving forward.

Why am I talking about this today? Because I am currently in the process of desperately trying to refill the well. Though I’ve finally gotten back to work on the last bit of manuscript editing I have to do (more on that tomorrow), I’ve been woefully disappointing in the amount of new writing that I’ve been doing of late. I just haven’t been able to push myself to sit down with a blank page and write something new; no new chapters to unfinished stories, no new drabbles or short stories…nothing new at all. Blogging, while important in its own way, does not count. I need to be writing new fiction. Lots of it. You can’t get better at writing unless you force yourself to do a lot of it, and you are seriously unlikely to reach a large year-long word-count goal if the only words you’re writing are for your blog.

And so here I find myself, staring into the well, tossing things in and hoping that soon I’ll be able to see the top of the pile. I’ve been (as previously mentioned) reading the most recent Sookie Stackhouse novels. I’ve recently completed (along with every trophy, thank you very much) the PS Vita game, Tearaway. I’ve been watching movies with my husband (most recently a horror and a goofy Grindhouse flick) and have plans to start watching the Doctor Who show right from the beginning original episodes. I’ve been using the books my husband gave me for Christmas to learn more about my favorite superheroes, their backgrounds, their villains, and their comrades.

Am I feeling more creative yet? Maybe a little. Maybe a little too much. I find myself actually drowning a little bit in the ideas. I’m not sure what to go for, where to turn next. There are so many areas on which I could focus, and I can’t tell which one I’m most interested in. While attempting to refill the well, I may have actually leaned a little too far forward and fallen in.

But it’s a good problem to have, I think. Soon I am going to be returning to my “day job” out West, a job that involves a lot of physical labor, moving about outside, and thinking technically. Therefore it is going to be a joy to go back to my room at night, curl up with my tablet or a new blank journal, and just write. Maybe I’ll choose one direction and aim for it with laser precision. Or maybe I’ll spin the needle each night and see where the winds take me. Either way, I suspect that 2014 is going to be an interesting year for seeing what pops out of my brain and onto the page.

 

Currently Reading and Playing

I didn’t make these part of my goals for 2014, but I hope, this year, to read more books and play more video games. If that sounds like a huge waste of time given all the other things I have to focus on, let me reiterate a tad: I hope, this year, to read more books and play more video games instead of wasting time on the kinds of things I usually waste time on, like checking my Facebook feed fifty times a day.

I got a "few" new books over the holidays.
I got a “few” new books over the holidays.

I’ve been letting my books and games pile up for quite a while now, and with the new year and the fact that I’m going to be spending a lot of time on airplanes in the near future, I thought it was a good time to declare my desire to work on those two piles. And in honor of that, here’s a quick review of what I am currently reading and playing:

Currently Reading:
Dead and Gone (a Sookie Stackhouse novel)

Honestly, I didn’t know that these books existed until a friend of mine introduced me to the True Blood TV show. I’m not a great lover of the wave of “tame” vampires that are storming the nation, but I have to admit to loving True Blood, and so last Christmas my parents bought me the boxed set of books. I whipped through them in a flash, only to find out that the boxed set was not, in fact, all of the books…just the first so many. So this year my hubby bought me the next four in the series.

These books aren’t going to be for everyone, of course, especially if you’re not a fan of vampire romance, but that’s not the whole point of the books, like so many others. No, these books are actually quite well written, have a delicately interwoven plot of dozens of characters and twisting, turning story-lines, and are filled with lots of danger, adventure, and mystery. And yes, a fair little bit of romance. Really, these stories have everything. And I must admit, the author has surprised me on quite a few occasions. Pretty much every one of these novels has some kind of main mystery involved in the plot (who killed who, who planted the bomb, who kidnapped such-and-such) and I can’t honestly say that I’ve been able to guess any of the endings yet. Maybe that just speaks poorly for my own cognitive skills, but as I’ve been known in the past to work out the ending of a book/movie/TV show/video game well before anything began to be revealed, I personally think it speaks more of the author’s writing skill.

If you can’t stand the idea of any vampire ever being a good guy, stay away from these books, but if you’ve got a bit of an open mind and enjoy reading about supernatural creatures of all kinds, give them a try. Personally, I’m hooked.

Currently Playing:
Tearaway (Playstation Vita)

I didn’t know much about this game before hubby picked it up for me for Christmas, aside from the fact that it was made by the same people who did Little Big Planet, but I am definitely glad that I got to give it a try.

The game-play is very unique, cute, and fun. The game utilizes both the rear and front touch screens of the Vita, as well as all the buttons as well. You play as both the messenger, Atoi, and yourself as the mysterious “You” who lives outside the game world. Atoi is controlled by the main buttons, and “You” interact via the touch screens. For example, when certain types of ground appear in the game, “You” can touch the rear screen, which makes your finger burst through the ground in the game. You can then drag your finger back and forth around the world to knock out the bad guys, known as Scraps.

There is a lot more interaction as well, including taking photos of yourself for use in the game, using your finger and virtual paper to create papercraft items for the characters’ use (one little squirrel asks you to make him a crown), and tilting the Vita back and forth to move various platforms and obstacles.

All in all the game is just adorable, amusing, creative, and lots of fun to play. It’s the first game that I’ve beaten in quite a while because I just couldn’t put it down, and now I’m busy going back and collecting all the extra little bits and pieces. Seriously, if you have a Vita this one is definitely worth a go. It’s by far one of the most innovative games I’ve seen in a long time.

                                                       

Hopefully in the following months I’ll have more books and video games to talk about, but in the meantime, please share with me! What are you reading or playing?