In 1992, Penguin Group published a book by Julia Cameron titled The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. The self-help book helped coin the term “creative well.”
What exactly is a “creative well”? As bloggers, writers, creative business people, most of us are very creative. The creative person may come up with dozens of new ideas in a single day. Because the creative person is always pouring things out in the form of new projects, writing, and work, there does come a point where the creative person's inner well from which all this creativity flows runs dry. It must be “refilled” from time to time in order to keep the creativity flowing.
“Serious art is born from serious play.” – Julia Cameron
Cameron's theory in a nutshell is simply this:
- You must add fun things to keep your creativity humming.
- You must have an outlet for all the clutter and negativity that comes from others and self.
- You must experience new things.
- You must live in the world to write about the world.
Top Things to Take From The Artist's Way
Of course, this book that is a self-help guide to freeing your creativity is a lot more involved than those simple points above. Cameron gives two main tools to help free your creativity, but within each chapter are many other tips, tools and techniques that will help build your creativity.
The two big tools that Cameron offers that you can apply starting today and help expand your creative side are:
Cameron recommends writing in a journal for a minimum of three pages every morning. This is done in a freewriting style, where your thoughts flow and you write them out. You do not worry about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. You simply write. If you can't think of anything to write, then you write: “I don't know what to write.” You write those words until something comes to you.
This is called “getting rid of the clutter” and helps free your mind of all the junk that goes on in a given day so that your brain can focus on the task at hand – writing.
An artist date is something you do completely by yourself. It should be something fun, different, exciting, or something you love. The idea is to refill your creative well so that you have more ideas than you had before. Some examples of artist dates:
- Take a walk in a nearby park and take the time to observe how many different types of flowers grow along the path.
- Go to a local museum, walk around and admire the art.
- Attend a concert in the park by yourself.
An artist date does not have to be expensive and should always be alone. I once went to a park alone and sat on the swings and spun in circles. Why? I loved to do that as a child. It was something that took me back to my childhood. It cost me nothing. Yet, it had a big payback in the creativity that was unleashed from that simple 20-minute trip the local park and back.
An artist date simply needs to be something that makes your heart sing. It can be something you loved as a child or something you love now. For some people, it involves nature. For others, the last thing it would involve is nature. The key is figuring out what speaks to your own heart and soul.
Of course, the main reason artists want to refill their creative wells is because they are blocked and either unable to come up with good new ideas or unable to write at all. As a blogger, you are expected to provide content in your unique writing voice 52 weeks out of the year.
Even if you only blog once a week, that is a lot of content to come up with. On top of writing, you likely are also in charge of monetizing your website, promoting your website, and keeping the website up and running. A blogger has to wear many different hats. Because the average blogger is burned out and tired, knowing some things you can do to prevent writer's block is almost vital.
Here are a few things you can try when you get blocked:
- Use idea starters. Idea starters can kick start the creative process and get ideas flowing.
- Write a fabulous headline. Jerry Low has some examples from top bloggers out there. Write a headline that not only engages the reader, but has good SEO, and the rest of the article may just flow easily.
- Take a walk around the block. Exercise gets oxygen flowing through your body. There is also something about walking that seems to free the thought process.
- Read an article on improving a writing skill. We have many here at WHSR to get you started.
- Work on improving your website's design or style. Sometimes focusing on a different aspect of your blog can free up your creativity for the actual blog posts.
- Listen to music.
- Read similar articles to the ones you're working on. You never want to copy another writer or website, but sometimes reading your competition will show you where there are holes in their copy and you can then fill those holes with unique topics of your own.
Ways to Refill Your Creative Well
If you are completely burned out and all of the above ideas simply aren't cutting it, then it is time to move to emergency measures to refill your creative well. First, don't try to write at the moment. If you have to, hire a writer to create a few pieces for you to give your mind some time to heal from all the stress it's under.
Next, start taking Julia Cameron's advice. Write in your “morning pages” every day (no, you don't have to do them in the morning, just as soon as possible after waking up). Take an artist date each week. These are two simple things you can start that will pay off big time.
Next, try filling your creative well by:
- Reading great literature. Yes, even if you write about golf balls, go ahead and read fiction. Read whoever you love to read. Read Stephen King or read John Steinbeck. It doesn't matter who you read, just that you read something you enjoy.
- Spending time with smart people. Smart people have smart and intriguing conversations. Spend some time in the company of those who interest you and you'll likely find some ideas starting to flow.
- Try a different task than those you normally do. Teach yourself to play guitar. Take a yoga class. Learn to sew. The key is to get your mind to stop obsessing over the fact that you aren't able to write at the moment.
- Go to a completely different location than where you normally write. Do you normally write in your home office? Go to the local Starbucks and people watch while you write on your laptop.
- Get back to basics. Using the example again of the golfing blog, go to the golf course and play a few rounds of golf. Visit the pro shop and chat with the guys there about any new equipment or gadgets they've seen. Talk to other golfers in the club about their game. Eventually, this will all mesh together and you'll start to come up with new ideas to write about. Go to the core of what you're writing about, whether that means cooking up some new recipes in the kitchen for a food blog, or babysitting your friend's baby for a parenting blog.
Some Additional Thoughts on Creativity
I've been studying creativity and how to help writers become unblocked since 2002 when Pamela Johnson and I co-wrote So Your Muse Has Gone AWOL?
In addition to some of the more traditional ideas of taking a walk or listening to music, we also looked at things such as whether scent can be tied to creativity.
Scent is tied to so many things we do. Have you ever caught the smell of snickerdoodle cookies and been immediately transported back to the age of seven when your grandmother showed you how to make those cookies? Our memories and scents are often tied very closely together.
It makes sense, then, that smells might free our inner creativity. That is just one example of the many different things you can try to become unblocked as a writer.
Coming up with new ideas for your blog and writing from a unique perspective doesn't happen in a vacuum. Creativity is multi-layered and complicated. I've taught six-week courses on this topic and only scratched the surface. However, if you can implement just a few of the ideas outlined in this article, you'll see a noticeable difference in your ability to come up with new ideas.