I finally feel like I’m hitting stride coping with coronavirus. It is so much easier for me to stay at home now, and I feel like I’m making good progress with my writing. I realize that not many people can say that and I feel particularly blessed.
Part of the reason I’m doing much better is because I’ve been working to find ways to fill my creative well. I’ve seen multiple posts out there about how quarantining has squashed people’s ability to create, to focus, to be motivated, etc. I’ve definitely felt that. But the fact is COVID-19 has become an inseparable part of our reality, and I decided I needed to do something to help myself pull out of the spiral.
So, I started focusing on consuming or researching media that would help me write my book.
I’ll give you an example.
I’m currently writing the last 4-5 chapters of my manuscript. Huge win. The downside is I’ve been trying to plan and outline these last chapters for about six months, with no success. Quarantine hit, and I still had no outline, leaving me feeling like:
Struggling to actually write, I thought instead about why I might be stuck and I realized I needed to do research on character motivations and arcs because I didn’t know how to get my main character’s development from point A to point B so I could finish the story.
The solution? Go find examples of character arcs similar to mine and study them.
Star Wars. I started rewatching Star Wars (I love it when Star Wars is the answer). I realized the Star Wars films had a good and wide selection of character arcs I could study to help me figure out how to help my character make the choices that would bring around her development at the end.
And it worked.
Now, take a second to think about your own life. What are the problems you are coming up against in your creative work? What scenes are you writing over and over again? What shapes are you painting and repainting? What revisionist act have you been doing over and over again and can’t seem to be getting over the hump of it? Below I have a list of different ways one could fill the creative well. Think about your block and see if one of the suggestions I’ve listed will help you, or feel free to come up with some of your own.
Ways to Fill the Well
One of my favorite ways to fill the well is through reading books. This could be books in the genre you want to write in, professional development books, instructional books in your craft, or even biographies on the people whose work you respect.
I felt inspired to order myself a couple of books I’ve had on my wish list for a while: Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert and Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. I’m currently reading Developing the Leader Within You 2.0, by John C. Maxwell. I’ve loved reading pro development books during this pandemic because they give me, personally, a sense of who I want to be moving forward from this pandemic.
Listen to Music
Listen to music that inspires you.
For me, music that inspires me is instrumental music, the kind you would hear behind movie trailers. I’ve taken the time to let the music paint pictures in my mind or create scenes and it has been super awesome. I realized a few weeks back, I realized I could see the entire movie trailer for my book in my head as I listened to the song “I am the Shield” by Audiomachine.
Go for Walks
Where you are able, take a walk and look at things closely. The outside has a lot of inspirational structures in it, man and nature made alike. Have you taken time to examine flower or grass stems? What about that rock in the sidewalk? What colors are in it? Why does it look like it is textured that way? What do you notice about the way bricks are joined together outside your local junior high? Filing away these observances can help fill your creative well and give you ideas to draw on.
Motivational YouTube Videos
Watch motivational videos on YouTube. I’ll admit, I’m binging those right now. It is so nice to hear that all my favorite productivity gurus are out there having the same struggles as I am but they are finding productive and uplifting ways to push through it regardless. It gives me ideas on what I can do better to work on my creative projects and make putting my manuscript a high priority more possible. Those motivational videos really do help, ya’ll. Just saying.
Talk to a Child
If you can, go talk to a little kid and ask them to tell you a story. I realize this one might be a bit of a grab bag, but I think that’s the fun in it. Kids are so full of imagination and maybe they’ll say something that you can use later or that can inspire you to create. Maybe it’s time for you to write the theme song for Squirrel-Dog versus the Pancake Lizard. Who knows?
A Word of Caution…
There is a difference between mindless consuming and filling your well. The difference is how you are doing it. Are you consuming content with the intention of taking what you learn and applying it to your work? Why are scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram? Are you there looking for inspiration on a different way to hold a paint brush or a new way to digitally illustrate a stroke of light? Or are you there scrolling away to numb yourself?
It is so easy to slip into the mind numbingness of “staying busy.” Yes, the quarantine and social distancing are less than ideal, and everyone is going nuts at home and wants their lives back. But is part of why you, personally, are struggling because you are looking at the way life was and wishing things were the same? Why not focus instead on activities and things that make you happy and help you look forward to the moment we get to start our lives again?
Focusing on these other things to fill my creative well has changed my perspective. As human beings, it is our nature to create and creating makes us happy. I want to share with you a great quote from Developing the Leader Within You 2.0. Even though Maxwell is talking about leadership, I think it applies really well to how we are all handling COVID-19: “How do you get better results? You have to rethink how you do something” (30).
To get better at creativity during quarantine, I needed to rethink how I was “doing” it. I started out trying to just cope and get through it. But this is the new norm, and it is going to be the new norm for a while. Since I decided I was going to stop being a victim of my empty creative well and fill it, I have found time passing more happily and quickly, I’m able to have a more positive outlook, and I’ve felt productive, even though I’ve spent a ton of time watching Star Wars. Staying home has started to become a pleasurable experience. I’m not saying I’ll miss the pandemic by any means, but I feel like by doing all these things I’ll have learned how to better handle disaster and turn disaster into a learning and growing experience.
What are some things you can think of to fill your creative well? Let me know in the comments below!