Filling the Well

Many years ago I quit writing. The cessation lasted two years and almost drove me crazy. When I figured out what I needed (to write, regardless of the consequences—or maybe because of the consequences of not writing), a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron was incredibly, incredibly helpful to me.

Though I’ve forgotten many of the specifics of that great book, one of Cameron’s suggestions continues to be part of the philosophical foundation I build my writing life on: Fill the Well. It’s basically just the conviction that all ideas come out of a life lived, so rather than cloister yourself away to write every minute you have time because dammit-you’re-a-writer-and-writers-write, you should do things that aren’t writing related per se without guilt, because every activity, experience, moment with others, pours into your creative well and if you don’t have non-writing time, eventually you won’t have a well to draw from—or what you do manage to dreg up will be stale and bitter.

It can be easy to forget to freshen the well. If you’re like me, your life is busy and you covet writing time and feel guilty if you have time that you could write, but don’t use it “productively.” And there’s wisdom in our you-gotta-plant-your-butt-tyranny—but there’s also a line where too much discipline squashes—where I find myself writing only out of a sense of obligation, not that agony/ecstasy feeling of I MUST WRITE TO GET THIS ALL OUT OF MYSELF OR I WILL EXPLODE.

When my writing has that “Ugh, I have to write,” versus, “I get to write” feeling, I know I have to spend some time doing other things, and ironically, it’s usually when my work/life schedule is at its most hectic and my writing time is already at its scarcest that this need to make time to do other things is crucial.

My family is out at a cadet camp this weekend and after a ticket-selling shift yesterday (good volunteering mom, eh?) and getting a brochure I needed printed for a client, I planned to get A LOT done, because I have (like always, it seems these days) A LOT to do.

Instead, I:

Made a very yummy veggie and cheddar wrap and drank two glasses of wine, sitting in the sunshine with Twisted by Jonathan Kellerman (famous novelist, new to me—am enjoying very much!) 

Then I had a nap. Until 6:00 p.m. 

Then I worked in my delicious smelling flowerbed and yard until 9:00. 

Then I poured more wine, tossed up a stir-fry and watched TV—what a treat. 

Very rejuvenating. Just what I needed!

Today has been low-key too: sleeping in, drinking coffee, reading short stories—and I might clean my house a bit . . . But I’m starting to feel a building urge to get to my novel—there’s a scene burning, a character screaming to be let out . . .

What about you? Do you have similar feeling about the importance of sometimes NOT writing?

p.s. Where was that jeep found? Who did it belong to and why was it left? Last weekend found me wandering, filling the well—I hope the old ghosts don’t begrudge the pictures I took . . .

6 thoughts on “Filling the Well

  1. Oh my goodness, your weekend sounds marvellous. And it’s so true, about filling the well. I haven’t read The Artist’s Way but I adore that quote by Thoreau: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” Vain or otherwise, it’s also almost impossible.

    That jeep… I want to believe I have insider’s knowledge about where it is, but as for why it was left? Hmmm! There’s a story, or a book. If this ended up the cover of my other book (I think you know the one I mean?) I’d be pretty pleased! There are so many stories. Quick, I need to go write one!

    P.S. About your site… I see the blue has turned to green! Perfect for Spring.


  2. I also have Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” I loved it and go back and read bits of it from time to time.

    “It can be easy to forget to freshen the well.” So true. Thanks for reminding us all.


  3. Dear Jen,

    I love that Thoreau quote–it’s new to me, so thanks for sharing it!

    The photo was taken in the Dorreen–and it would make a great cover for your book!!!

    “There are so many stories. Quick, I need to go write one!”

    It’s so exciting, isn’t it?! 🙂


  4. Dear Laura,

    “‘It can be easy to forget to freshen the well.’ So true. Thanks for reminding us all.”

    You’re very welcome–have you been doing any ‘specially restorative lately? I worked in my yard last night and then lay down on my belly on the grass and just looked around for quite a long time, actually. It was awesome. 🙂


  5. As always, another thoughtful post. It reminds me of a needlepoint I did for my son when he was a baby (22 years ago!) It was “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” I’ve made it a point not to let my creative well run dry.


  6. Thanks for the kind words, you novel woman. 🙂 I like the quote! Your son is lucky to have a mom who knows the value of refreshing her creative well!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.