Filling Your Well vs. Burning Out
In capitalist Western culture, we’ve been taught to prioritize hard work in exchange for “success.” Many of us work harder and faster, without taking the time and space we need to refill our well (health, happiness and well-being). I find this all too often translates into our creative work as well.
We’re taught to write every day, do more, work faster, blah blah blah.
I call BS. Because if you’re on constantly on task/ under the gun and you’re not feeding your creative well, you’ll eventually burn out.
That’s not why we’re here. Art is meant to feed and inspire us. But it can’t do that when we’re trapped within the confines of urgency and perfectionism—hallmarks of capitalism and white supremacy culture.
What’s Filling Your Creative Well? What’s Inspiring Your Writing?
Now that my kids are fully vaxxed (yay!), we’ve been busy with gatherings and events. This past weekend, we went down to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. As we were touring the Numbers in Nature exhibit and learning about spirals, fractals and other common patterns in nature, I found myself thinking about how to apply this to memoir, since I’m always looking at ways to structure book-length memoirs.
Unlike my husband, I’m not a math/numbers person (he chose the numbers exhibit while I chose Stonehenge), so that’s not where I would normally look. But that’s the beauty of having space and time to explore new things: we make new connections. Sometimes, we even solve long-standing issues in the process.
For many of us, time and space to inspire and feed our creativity is the first to go when we get busy. More and more, though, I’m beginning to understand that this is one of my non-negotiables. Going to museums, traveling, playing, listening to live music, hiking in nature, whatever it is that feeds your soul.
All of this forms the basis of our creative soil. And when we’re depleted, it can be tough to create.
Writing consistently is important when you’re working on a memoir, but so is feeding your writing. Many of my writing friends schedule in regular time for writing dates—weekly coffee dates to doodle/ write at a coffee shop, a full morning to explore a new neighborhood, you name it.
Sometimes it can be as simple as doing something fun vs. a “should.” A few weeks ago, I took a handful of workshops at Lit Fest, a literary festival through Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop, where I also teach. After this long year, I needed something different, so I took an awesome humor writing class with Elissa Bassist and a fun class on writing with moon cycles with Courtney E. Morgan, among others.
The Elissa Bassist humor class was a blast, and I learned so much about the various forms of humor writing. I also laughed my ass off. (If you’ve ever written or helped anyone write a college essay, check out this piece by Julia Drake: “The Boy From Jurassic Park’s College Application Essay.”)
Setting Writing Boundaries
As we were wrapping up class, Elissa mentioned she wouldn’t be answering email while she’s writing her current book. Other writer friends are doing something similar, and I love it.
They’ve set up auto-responders on their email stating that they’re essentially unavailable for the next number of months while they’re writing their book. In a world where we all spend way too much time on email, I love the inherent permission of such a statement.
I think we could also use some version of this attached to our email, as it would certainly help us manage expectations. Even–or perhaps all the more so–if we’re not famous writers.
For more on boundaries and email, check out this potent piece by Melissa Febos: “Do You Want to be Known for Your Writing or For Your Swift Email Response?”
So tell me, friend, what’s calling you?
What fun and inspirational things do you have planned this summer? How will you fill your creative well? Where can you take more off your to-do list in order to make more time and space for fun?
P.S.: Happy Pride Month! I’ve been inspired by the return of LGBTQIA+ support from the White House. Let’s keep it coming, folks.
P.P.S. I’m in the middle of a business reorg at the moment, creating new offerings, rebuilding offerings and moving all of my offerings to a new platform, and will be sharing more info with you in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you’re a small biz owner like me and could use some support, check out The Monkey Creative. They’ve been a huge help and I highly recommend them.