Sunday, January 5, 2020

Emergency Refilling of the Well

For a lot of us - especially Romance writers - the stress of the last few weeks has been at best distracting and at worst devastating. That kind of emotional stress, on top of the holiday season, which can be emotionally draining for many people, can leave us with empty wells. So what do you do when you need to be creative, but the well is dry?

In other words, how do you even when you can't even?

Our quite timely topic at the SFF Seven this week (thanks to KA Krantz for creating the new topic calendar!) is "Refilling the well – what do you do to nourish your creative self, long term and in an emergency?"

Just Don't.

When you can't even, not trying to is a great option.

I'm always amused when self-care articles include taking a hot bath. Doesn't it seem like EVERY SINGLE ONE DOES??? And yet, the theory behind this is what counts. In the bathtub we are typically alone - usually you can even lock the door and there's the whole bathroom = privacy thing - and so we get expectation-free time. We can nap, read, count the tiles - I have one friend who has a TV over her tub where she watches Downton Abbey - or simply stare into space.

The point is taking time to do "nothing" is great for refilling the well. We're geared that way. So whether it's yoga (which allows thinking to bleed away), meditating (like yoga that way), tile-counting (a kind of meditation), taking a long walk (same), or whatever allows your mind to go blank, do that thing.

Read, Watch Movies, Listen to Music, Look at Art - One at a Time

When was the last time you listened to music and did *nothing* else? What's the longest time recently that you've read without stopping to do something else, like check your phone or the time? When you watch movies or binge a show, do you also check Twitter or do some sort of other task simultaneously? Try doing just the one thing and nothing else. If you are happier doing something with your hands, mindless tasks like knitting or needlework don't count as distractions. Just try practicing doing only one thing. I remember being a teenager and lying there just listening to an entire album. The closest I've come since is when I'm driving.

Studies have shown that when we multitask, we're actually rapidly switching our attention from one thing to the next, which is draining. It's not good for our mental health. So consume that favorite media - and do ONLY that. Going to a movie in a movie theater can be great for that, as you *can't* do anything else but watch the movie. (Seriously, you shouldn't be looking at your phone - it lights up and annoys everyone else.)

I'm lucky enough to live in a place with a vibrant art scene. Walking around galleries and looking at art is something that makes it difficult for me to multitask - especially if I keep my phone in my bag! - and it fills my personal creative well. Museums are great for this, too, or even art books with wonderful paintings and photographs.


It's okay to walk away from the Internet. The FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) can be strong, but time away can really help to cool the fires of urgency. In many ways, social media has become like the 24/7 news shows - after about thirty minutes, everything has been said and goes on repeat. It's almost impossible these days to really miss out on anything because someone is always out there ready to rehash and analyze. Go unplug. This comes back to the Just Don't. Go to a lake with no cell service, or take a walk and leave your phone behind. Set aside one day a week where you don't turn on the computer and you turn off your data plan.

These are all great for long-term maintenance, and all things that I do. But what about in an emergency, when things hit a crisis point?

I do these things too, just more consciously. I make myself turn things off and I walk away. Looking at pretty pictures or nature goes a long way toward grounding myself again.

But if you all have suggestions for emergency well-refilling/stress chilling, I'd love to hear suggestions!


  1. I find cooking-- the good kind- not just quick version-- can be like this. You have to pay attention to just that. When I was young, I discovered loom weaving. The older ladies who were doing it at the center where I took classes were mostly special needs teachers. When I asked why they chose weaving, they said that it was so complex, that they could ONLY think about the weaving. This allowed their brains to take a break from the emotional stress of helping their students. Also, the tactile/visual stimulus was soothing.

    1. Oh, those are good ones! I love to bake for exactly that reason. :-)

      I've always wanted to learn to weave, too, but our current house has no room for a loom. Maybe if I get my dream remodel!

  2. I did weave, professionally, for years. And I listened to books on tape to keep me at the loom. In fact, I'm trying to sell my 8-harness 60" wide loom if you know anyone. ;) Meanwhile, for chillin', I bake or knit or read. In the growing season, I am outside planting and weeding, feeling the sunshine and the breezes, and listening to the birds. That really slows me down. :)

    1. Too bad you're so far away, or I'd consider it! (or maybe that's a good thing since my house is too small.) And yes - gardening! That's a wonderful grounding, mindless task

  3. Oh the wonderful doing nothing. I'm getting better at it, but it's like you's really easy to multitask while relaxing and before you know it you're wrapped up in something and definitely NOT doing nothing. I did take all social media apps off my phone, except Insta, and it's made a huge difference for the better.

    1. I'm so guilty of this - and every time I end up kicking myself for it! Clearing the phone has been one of the best things I've ever done, for sure :-)