Monday, April 22, 2013

How do You Refill Your Well?

What do you do when you feel like you are "at the end of your rope," with no more to give? Writer and artist Julia Cameron writes in The Artist's Way that each of us has a well or a reservoir of energy and creativity that we are continually drawing from in dealing with the stresses and the demands of our lives.

But if we are always taking something out, we will eventually run dry. That's where I have been many times. When I still lived in Washington, after writing my first two novels, intense marketing, traveling, taking care of my home, hubby, and cat, as well as my various writing groups, and completing numerous editing jobs, I suddenly found my well dry. Even though the sun was shining (and that usually gives me lots of energy), I had no energy, no ambition, no creativity and no desire to do anything or go anywhere.

So I took an afternoon off, drove to my favorite beach park on Puget Sound and just sat by the water. I watched the seagulls swooping and fighting over tidbits, listened to the gentle lapping of the water, gazed at the white-blue cloudless sky and the glittering sea. I read a little, walked some, jotted down a few words in a notebook. I thought a little, but mostly I just "was."

The next day, I awoke with amazement—I had more energy, I could think, and I was eager to do things again.

I've done this before, and I seem to forget to "stop and smell the roses" when I'm in my busy, frenetic rut. Nature refills my well and helps my creativity.

Now that I live in north-central Arizona, I have other vistas to enjoy—the awesome “Granite Dells” between my new home and Prescott, great hiking trails, several lovely lakes nearby, the birds and bunnies out on our “back acre,” and sunshine—the wonderful sunshine!

What do you do to refill your well?

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.


  1. I too get away. I live on a lake with a water view from my office. When things get out of hand, I walk down to the dock, with or without a book, sit and meditate, and just be in the moment. When the water gets warmer, I'll swim. For now, just being at the point where water meets land, where the redbuds and wild dogwood are in bloom, reboots my psyche.

  2. Great post, Heidi. This is so, so true! We have to get away and clear the mind and the psyche. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Sometimes I just have to walk away for a while and do something else I love. I realized recently that when I'm driving or doing something else in silence that more ideas come. In today's world, it is hard to turn everything off and find true solitude.

  4. I remember when I first read The Artist's Way a number of years ago, I was so pleased to find out that it is okay, even good, to get away from the writing to get creative stimulation. For me, just going outside and working with my animals a bit, or going for a walk energizes me physically and creatively. I am not on a lake, but I do have pretty property all around. There are some advantages to living out in the country. (smile)

  5. This is so important, and when you add on the stress of a few caregiver duties, you must find ways and times to nap or do a relaxation exercise such as gardening or going out with a camera to photograph wildflowers. I'd do both of those if it would just stop this snowing business until next winter. :D

  6. Regeneration, rejuvenation, regrouping, whatever you want to call it, infuses vigor back into exhausted imaginations to spur creativity. For me this involves distraction (clothes shopping - LOL), exploring new places in nature or history, or even reading or watching the news. Huge events that consume days of hashing and rehashing on major news channels generally aren't as inspiring as little stories that expose the good, the bad, and the ugly in human nature -- heroes who come to the fore in natural disasters, extraordinary children and animals, everyday situations that take an unexpected twist, a seemingly exemplary individual who leads a double life and has a far less honorable alter ego. Another biggie is reading. The works of others nudge me back to the keyboard to unleash my own stories and characters to entertain and enlighten readers just as has been done for me. Love this post, Heidi. We all need to refill that well and prime the pump now and then.

  7. Ugh, I am badly in need of a fresh well. Stuck at home in the cement residential area and no money for an escape. Will have to find a "well" in my imagination I guess, while sitting in the backyard.
    Thanks for this good reminder that we MUST get ourselves out from behind the desk once in a while.

  8. I wrote most of HEADWIND whilst living next to an ocean-front park in Hilo, HI ... to recharge my batteries I would saunter downstairs to the park, sit and watch the waves crashing on the rocks as the ocean breezes caressed my brow (I'm getting weepy just thinking about it) ... now I live in suburban blandness with absolutely nothing inspirational to amuse my muse. No wonder I'm lucky to crank out 500 words in a day ... and that's a good day!

  9. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I often forget about refilling my well until I'm just mentally crawling across the desert, croaking, "Water, water!" Nature is best, for me anyway, but even taking a short urban concrete walk sometimes will help stimulate the creative muse.

  10. You have to be able to "do something else" without guilt that you're neglecting the writing -- just as long as it's not too long.

    On a short term basis, living up in the mountains, a nice walk with the dog can clear the mind--or fill it with new plot ideas.


  11. This is why I host writing retreats for women at my lakeside summer home. I find the most draining thing for women isn't the writing, it's all that they must push aside in order to write. At my retreat I arrange everything so they have complete permission and freedom to write, in a beautiful setting, with healthy food and daily stretches and exercise (water or land) built in.

    I'll never forget some of the quotes from the evaluations, including:

    "That hike restored my soul."

    ~and my favorite~

    "I didn't have to get in my car for three whole days!"


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