Two weeks ago I issued the challenge of living a quiet life. I talked about the importance of ridding distraction from our lives so that our imaginations have room to grow. Today I’m going to talk about the opposite. Well, sorta.
All creative individuals find that their work day is filled with several trips to the well, the well of creativity that is. We lower our pails down into its dark depths, never seeing the bottom. We did not build the well, it was there when we came. Some days it seems like barely any rope at all gets taken up before the pail touches down. Other days we fear actually having enough rope to get the pail down far enough.
Much of the time the creativity and imagination finds its own way into the well. It leaks in through the sidewalls during spring, flows over the edges when fall showers come. But there are times when we take and take from the well far faster than it can replenish itself naturally. In those cases we have to help it along.
This notion of refilling the well came from a podcast that I used to listen to many years ago. They suggested having a day each week where you do not allow yourself to create. You take a mental vacation from all creativity on that day. The idea being that you can’t continuously take from the well and think that you won’t one day run dry. Or, worse yet, not have anything when you actually need it.
On refill days you don’t simply lie around on the sofa and not do anything. You also don’t use those days to do yard work. Remember, we’re ‘refilling’ the well. That is a task in and of itself.
So how do we refill the well: by seeking out creativity and imagination. We head to the movies, read a book, find a museum, enjoy a concert or symphony. We seek out other works of art that have sprung from the depths of others’ wells and simply enjoy them.
Last night, I had the opportunity to head to the well, the question was, which way would I carry the full pail? My step mum had taken our son for a couple of hours so that my wife and I could enjoy a meal without having to worry about feeding and entertaining our little one. After dinner we both headed in our separate directions, she to her computer and me to mine. “Oh the writing I can get done,” I thought. But then I thought about the available moment, got up, and headed to the living room.
Netflix delivered “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” to our box several weeks ago, and while they don’t mind when you get it back to them, I like to be relatively prompt (get more for your money that way). I informed my wife that we would be watching it, and so we did.
While I thought that the early Benjamin acted older than he was, I none-the-less enjoyed it. I enjoyed it with tears. Especially after our little baby came back home midway through the movie and we had him sprawled out on the couch with us watching Benjamin enjoy his daughters first birthday only to miss out on the rest of her life and then turn into a little one himself, curl up into Daisy’s lap as a little babe and close his eyes forever. You can’t have a baby sitting in your lap and see something like that without tearing up, let alone consider the notion of not being allowed to grow old with the one you love.
After the movie was over, my wife got ready for bed and I sat with our son, rocking him in my arms, not wanting to put him down for fear that when I looked back again I would see a grown man in his stead. He’s never looked quite so big as he did last night in the soft glow of the closing credits, the movie score playing until the menu on the DVD came up and cycled through over and over.
I thought about a lot of things during that time, of the past year, of how fast it has gone by. I thought it funny, all those people to warn you, “Enjoy it, it goes by so fast.” I wondered if there are parents that actually need to hear that because I’ve been painfully aware of it every step of the way. Maybe it’s that creative emotionality so tightly woven into my soul that makes me appreciate such things.
When I finally conceded and took him to bed, I laid next to my wife and though about the past, present and future. I thought about how filled up with love and emotion I now was. What a great movie to have brought to the surface all of those thoughts and imagined experiences. And although I started out not expecting the movie to fill my creative well, I found that it was flowing over.
That led to this final thought: We have many wells in our lives, not just creative ones. As artists and especially as writers, we need to visit all of those wells and care for each of them in turn. While I might write in the fantasy vein, as a writer I weave tales about life, not fantasy. Fantasy is merely the setting, the rules through which lives are allowed to be played out. If I confine my refilling to solely the genre in which I write, I will find that my stories come across hollow because my well of love and loss is empty.
There is a side benefit from refilling your well, especially if you tend to all of them: Not only will your wells remain full, so will your life.
Go fill your wells my friends.
And enjoy a little baby holding music . . .