Filling the Well Part IV: Practical Suggestions


Enough theoretical discussion about filling the well! I love thinking about universal principles, but in parenting, I know I have to stop spinning my wheels and choose to act.

Let’s take a look at how one professional creative fills her well.

Writer Marissa Meyer lists several ways she fills her well between writing projects: read, watch TV and movies, exercise, try new things, do a nagging task, and relax.

As with most articles on filling the well, she makes no distinction between consuming and processing but her suggestions include both types.

Consume: Read, Watch TV and Movies

It makes a lot of sense for a writer to consume books, TV, and movies. Exposure to lots of stories can to spark ideas for her next period of production.

Process: Exercise, Relax, and Do a Nagging Task

Exercising and relaxing are great processing activities. They give the mind time to reflect and filter all it’s taken in. “Do a nagging task” is a way to free up space in the brain for better processing and allow subconscious thoughts and connections to bubble up to the surface.

Consume and Process: Try New Things

This is my favorite suggestion of Meyer’s. Try new things is an active way of consuming and a casual way of producing. It’s playing, experimenting, and tinkering. It’s taking in and processing at the same time.

Kid’s play is full of this kind of free experimentation. Kids are fearlessly creative. Maybe we parents can get some practical tips on filling the well from our kids.

But I don’t have time!

In researching filling the well I was struck by how many people mention that time is a key element.

“Time is an indispensable ingredient for a successful Artistic Career . . . creativity is born out of contentment.” –How Y.A. Fiction Works

“It requires conscious effort to set aside time for reading and viewing.” –Brooks Briggs

But how do we find the time? Should we schedule it or be spontaneous? Should we do a little every day or every week, or alternate it between periods of production, like Meyer does between writing projects?

How to find time could be the subject of a whole series of posts, but here’s a start.

1. Fill the well with our kids.

We can invite our children to join us in activities that we enjoy. We can also respond to our kids when they want to try something new or are engaged in something creative. If we can turn off our desire to check everything off the To Do list long enough to simply be with our kids, we might find that free play actually fills our well. That time can be good relationship-building time as well. I find if I can kill two birds with one stone it’s easier to make time for it.

2. Keep a list

How often do we see something we’d like to read or try but immediately dismiss because we know we don’t have time? What if we kept a list of those things and purposefully set aside an hour a week for things on the list whether our regular work is done or not?

3. Believe that it’s worth it

With so many things vying for our time, a reminder of why it’s important can help us make it a priority. It’s one thing to hear others talk about it, it’s another to experience the benefits first hand. If we have an inspiring experience with filling the well, then we could write it down and review it periodically to help us keep our conviction when other activities encroach on our time.

Next week we’ll take a break from the series on filling the well and address the question: Can we trust how our kids learn?

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