Saturday, January 11, 2020

There Was An Actual Well


Our topic this week: "Refilling the well – what do you do to nourish your creative self, long term and in an emergency?"

The best part of my childhood was when we lived in an old house way out in upstate New York, in what was then dairy country. We had an actual well at the side of house. I remember my father telling me once it was 32’ deep, which seemed very impressive, and it was fed by a spring. Now our well never went dry but in the hot, dry summers we did have to exercise caution not to do too many loads of laundry in one day or wash the car or anything else too major that required water because it was a very real possibility the well would run dry. In fact, one of our neighbors had that happen and it was a near catastrophe, requiring a new well to be dug on their farm as I recall.

They even had a water dowser come out to tell them where to dig, which of course was my favorite part of the whole sequence of events.

At any rate, I learned at an early age to tend the well and avoid drawing on it so much that the resource becomes exhausted. Our spring faithfully refilled the well if we waited long enough but there was always the dreaded possibility of the whole thing drying up. There was also the possibility of falling in and drowning of course, which utterly terrified me as a child, although there’s no way I ever could have shifted the enormous stone cap covering the shaft.  Nor was I ever tempted!

My ‘well’ of creativity and energy and whatever else pretty much refills itself overnight, much as the spring used to replenish our water supply every day. I wake up in the mornings ready to go and if I was feeling too tired or at a standstill on my writing or anything else the night before, matters are always better looking to me in the morning. Yes, I’m a morning person through and through. Lark here, who runs out of all kinds of energy as the day goes on.

I will say I’m fortunate enough to be a fulltime author now, with an empty nest aside from Jake the Cat, so many of the pressures I used to deal with as a single mother with a high pressure job at NASA/JPL have gone away.

If there is a reason during the day for me to need to disengage, stop thinking, de-stress, whatever, I:

Work on what I call a ‘mindless task’ away from the computer, by which I mean something well defined, fairly rote in nature like washing the dishes or doing the laundry, which allows my mind to disengage from whatever had it running like a hamster on a wheel and relax…

Meditate for ten or fifteen minutes. I visualize the cabin my grandparents owned at the local lake where we lived during that golden age of my childhood (as I remember it to be LOL). I can still recall with great clarity my favorite paths through the woods, as well as the lake itself, where I used to be allowed to take the rowboat my grandfather built and go roam, to read or fish or whatever I wanted to do. So if I meditate, I place myself back in that scene and ‘walk’ one of the paths, or ‘take the boat out’…the effort at detailed visualization and the happiness I associate with that time spent at the lake do wonders to reduce my tension, lower my heart rate and clear the air for me to move forward. I probably ought to do it every day as a regular thing but I don’t. I save it for when I really need it!

Go for a drive on the freeway and blast my music. Golden oldies work best for me…I like to sing along…when I did have the day job, I had quite a commute from home to work and that was my time for working out plot ideas and issues with stories and characters…

Go outside and garden a bit…

Take a walk…

Pet the cat (but this requires Jake the Cat to be in the mood to function as a furry tranquilizer and to not be asleep at the top of his cat treehouse).

Go play with my toddler grandson…

Later, after I’ve relaxed or de-stressed, I might read a favorite book or watch a movie or binge on a TV show but I have to have that peaceful activity first, that enables me to break my connection to whatever was bothering me or getting me wrapped around the axle. I don’t go back to whatever activity triggered me in the first place, but wait confidently for the next day, after the overnight cleaning and refilling process my mind faithfully executes.

I’m not sure we’re really addressing longer term creativity here this week but as for me, I read voraciously, all the time, on a huge variety of topics, as well as fiction of all kinds (but primarily the romance genres). I was that kid who would read the cereal box at breakfast if there wasn’t anything else at hand. I have to have things to read. I think my subconscious (or my Muse, which is the way I like to think of it) sifts through all the  input, takes a snip there and a fragment here and stitches together intriguing story or plot ideas and lets them float up into my consciousness. I always have many more plot ideas than I could ever write. Like many authors, I gravitate to the newer, shinier ones!

I watch a lot of movies and documentaries, as well as binge watching certain shows and series…

I try to sit with my eyes closed and listen to music on my iPod for the last hour of the day because I find that frees my mind up to work on plot tangles or story ideas in a natural flow, without my consciously focusing on the issues and stressing. I have this huge playlist with a mix of golden oldies, show tunes, country music, bagpipes, etc.

I do a lot of research into ancient Egypt particularly, just for the sheer pleasure of it – I’m so fascinated by the Ancient World – and come across any number of interesting facts that give rise to plots or plot twists…

If we’re not tired of the well analogy yet, all of the above activity is like the winter snow or the Spring rain, which would replenish the spring and contribute to filling that 32’ foot well in the side yard when I was a kid…

Author's own photo - the house in the country with the well