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Refilling the well

Hello again everyone. It's been a while since my last blog - I moved house which was great but full on! This month, I'm going to be talking about keeping creative inspiration, and the importance of taking time off.

a sketch at Blakeney Point, where we got a seal boat.

Taking a break

Coming up for air on the other side of the move and, you know, a casual global pandemic and Winter lockdown, I decided to take a break for a week. I went to Norfolk - somewhere I'd never been before, but importantly by the sea.

I always find time by the sea resets my brain. Something about it is very grounding and gives me perspective. This was so important after a year of lockdown. Despite having built up a more regular sketchbook practice last year, I also drew a lot of the same location - mostly my local park. I talk about the positives of this in an earlier blog, but it's also important to have a change from time to time.

What is this 'well' you're talking about?

Ok sorry if I lost you with the title. I'm talking about what Julia Cameron calls 'refilling the well' in her book 'The Artists Way' (which you'll see me keep banging on about). Basically, she encourages filling your mind and experiences with things that nourish you creatively - be that a film, a walk, a piece of music, seeing a friend - whatever floats your boat really. You know those memories, things and feelings that you keep coming back to time and time again? Those.

For me, it's things like watching childhood favourites or 'The Song of the Sea' (again), going dancing, looking at my scrapbook or going on a walk. Nothing major, just little things that always make me more ready to make something.

Keeping this 'well' fresh and full of things to pull out makes you less likely to feel burnt out. Addmittedly, the past year has been quite tough. We haven't been able to do the things we normally rely on to feel good. We've had a lot more stress to deal with. So, filling the well - or keeping your fire burning if you prefer a less watery analogy - is all the more important.

Balancing productivity and burnout

'Burnout' is a phrase we're seeing more and more. It's mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that comes from exposure to prolonged periods of stress. It'll leave you feeling drained, overwhelmed and generally pretty shit. Sound familiar?

If I think I'm approaching burnout stage I try to :

  • Limit my time on social media and/or remove apps from my phone- this stops comparisonitis and endless doom-scrolling

  • Get outside each day - even if it's only for a short time and it's cold

  • Make sure I get time alone if I need it - this is underrated, even for extroverts!

  • Think about my diary - do I really need to do all those things that are making me hyperventiate? If not, slim them down into only the (really) essential or enjoyable

All of the above for me is accompanied by therapy and anti-anxiety medication - two things I will always flag as central to my mental health in general. I don't think a bubble bath will always do the job...

Why are we like this?

Basically, capitalism. This isn't meant to be a political blog, but everything is political, so I'll say that we live in a system that rewards overwork and hyperproductivity - but never with the things we really need to be non-stressed.

If you're a creative, which I'm sure lots of you are, you're probably also beating yourself up for not being the best in your field, not doing what you love full time, not having enough followers, people not liking you enough, and maybe not making your rent - to name just a few things. Notice all the 'nots' there - it can get very easy to think of all the things you're not and forget what you are (or do have). Particularly if you're in theatre I find, but more on that maybe another time.

I don't have views like this at home - the change of scene made me really inspired to get my sketchbook out.

Ok enough preaching, what about the drawing?

Right - so what I'm trying to say is - breaking patterns by doing something like going on holiday, can really help fill the well. Not everyone can afford a holiday, which I'm very aware of from when I couldn't. In the past I've gone to a different spot in my local area to draw and even that can create the desired effect. When things are less familiar, they stand out that little bit more. They're a bit more likely to appear in your well than the things you see every day (even though those can be inspiring too).

After a week away, a week of not looking at social media, not working my day job, and being somewhere different, my creative well's feeling pretty full actually. How about you? How do you keep yours full?

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