“In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. We’ve got big fish, little fish, fat fish, skinny fish– an abundance of artistic fish to fry. As artists, we must…maintain this artistic ecosystem.
If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked. As artists we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them– to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well.” – Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way”
Cue my old lady voice:
“Filling the well was easier in my day. I remember when cell phones didn’t exist and people actually talked to each other and saw the trees! Kids today spend too much time on their devices!”
The thing is, I’ve turned into one of those kids. I hungrily claw for my phone whenever I have a free moment, supposedly checking email (even though I just checked 3 minutes ago) or falling into the abyss of social media.
And you know what? After just a few minutes of scrolling, scrolling scrolling, I always feel depleted. Empty.
Suffocating my brain with constant screen time has left me with a dry well and dead fish. My creative child is crying in a corner wondering where her imagination went.
We can’t fill the well if we’re not paying attention.
So I challenged myself to stay off Facebook and Twitter for a week. I would use my phone for old-fashioned social communication (calling, texting) and work-related activities only. But otherwise, I would be present in the moment.
It was hard at first. But I soon remembered how to just be in the world. Three weeks have passed and the well water is rising, fish are swimming and my creative child is playing. And my coaching, acting, writing and singing are reaping the benefits.
(You know where this is going, right?)
Now it’s your turn!
Are you filling the well or depleting it? Do you use or “abuse” your phone?
A deeper question: How often do your use your phone to avoid being present with your own thoughts and the world around you?
It’s time to pay attention. Give yourself the chance to be the best artist you can be.
Take the Fill The Well Challenge.
Here’s what us old folks used to do back in the day. Shockingly, these activities are still available now! No apps required.
People watch. They’re everywhere! A sea of humanity! Who are they? Imagine what their hopes and dreams might be. Where are they coming from? What’s on their minds?
Space out. Sit quietly and let your thoughts wander. Some studies show that “being bored” can ignite creativity and problem solving. You might be surprised what you discover in silence.
Observe your environment. Whether it’s sunlight on a hibiscus or shadows creeping on ornate architecture, your inner playful child is pointing curiously, “Hey! Look at that!”
Doodle, draw, listen to music, dance. Turning off the verbal part of the mind can awaken other discoveries to be used creatively later.
Read a full article. Not just a quick glimpse, now. Take time to really read. What are you passionately curious about? Buy a subscription and edify yourself.
Read a book. A great way to explore empathy is through books (and TV shows, movies, museums, etc.). Seek out stories about people very different from yourself. You’re sure to learn something and open your brain in a different way.
Walk. A stroll lets your mind wander as it takes in the world and people around you. The well fills without much effort.
Talk to a human being – familiar or stranger. Not everyone and not willy-nilly. But connecting with other humans – laughing about a dog or appreciating tasty food – promotes a sense of community and boosts creativity.
Handwrite a letter. Remember what it’s like to slow down and truly think about what you want to say and how to say it. Very different from impulsively typing and sending. Plus, you’ll make someone’s day when they open their mailbox.
Journaling. If you tend to get distracted, journaling can be a great way to keep yourself present with what’s happening around you. Free-write and don’t censor yourself. Be messy. Write what you see, hear, smell, taste, think. (Journaling can also be a great way to work through an emotional challenge.)
Meditate. Meditation lowers your heart rate and anxiety while helping you be present and creative – even when you’re not meditating. (I love headspace.com.)
Fit Brains. Sometimes we just want to sit and play. Fit Brains games are scientifically designed to strengthen the brain. So instead of mindlessly scrolling or throwing birds at pigs, I can have fun building focus, memory, visual acuity and other things. (Okay, I told a little white lie: this is an app.)
Take the Fill The Well Challenge. Catch yourself when you reach for the empty immediate gratification and instead ask how you can fill the well. Do it for a day. Then two. Do it for a week and see what happens. Soon your creative child will be splashing around with joy.
Curious about the science of cell phones, boredom, creativity and empathy? Read these:
**Image courtesy of The New Yorker.