Julia Cameron has a term she uses called “Filling the Well”, and I see it happen often enough in my life that I’ve applied it to my life. The concept is that when we’re creating stuff, we use a storehouse of images, colors, observations, and feelings from our lives. She says that we have to feed ourselves these images, colors, and feelings so we can “fill the well” with them. Then, as we create, we can use our dipper or our bucket and draw out the new combination of these things in our expression.
I knew that the trip to Greece would be very much a process of filling the well. My journal and my sketchbook went with us, and I didn’t set out to create anything new. I planned to just soak things up. I read five books while we were gone. I had a few ideas, which I honored and jotted down, but mostly, I just kept my eyes open.
What I didn’t expect was for that process to so desperately continue once we got back. I have a few theories. Either the well was running pretty dry before we left, or I’m about to go on a creative growth spurt and I’m filling extra for the next big thing.
I’m not sure which of those theories is correct. Perhaps a bit of both.
Before the trip, I’d only read one novel in 2013 from start to finish (Redshirts by John Scalzi and I highly recommend it). I had done another revision of Salvaged, and slammed through a few drafts of other works. But the only things I was reading were comic books and short stories. I didn’t have the attention span for a novel.
I read five books on the trip (2 novellas, and 3 novels), and then I got home and dashed through another one. I’ve been reading incessantly. Truth is, this is closer to how I normally read, the earlier part of the year was the anomaly. I’m just not sure what happened to cause this shift. Well, the TBR pile is massive. I’ve got plenty to work on.
Another way that I’m filling the well is free online learning via Coursera. Brett has been doing these classes for a while, and I’ve finally gotten intrigued enough to give it a shot.
I’ll be sure to let you know when my thirst is slaked and I start really creating again. So far, it’s been very hard to get started. I feel like focusing my energy on filling the well is where I need to be right now. I should start my regular 30 minutes each night practice back up, but I’ve got to tell you, that feels horrible.
I’ve tried it twice since we got back and it is akin to drawing from an empty well.