In my last blog I mentioned Sarah Wilson’s article on creativity and happiness which is a perfect segueway into this week’s writing tip: feeding your creative soul.

We are all creative beings whether we want to admit it or not. So many times I’ve sat in classes and listened to students say “I haven’t got a creative bone in my body” (or similar rubbish) followed half an hour later by them reading out a beautiful piece of writing and flooring everyone. So, let me say this again but louder:

 We are all creative beings.

We are born creative. Watch children play with their imaginary friends or turn a blank page into a rainbow of colour. Listen to them make up stories and sing songs, make instruments out of tin cans or build a castle out of cardboard boxes. But as we get older something happens. We become more self-conscious, we have new demands on our time, it becomes “uncool” to play “silly” games and gradually, before we know it, our creative spirit has been locked away only to be let out on the odd occasion when we happen to find ourselves with some time alone. And even then the door is left ajar for a short time before it’s slammed shut and bolted.

But that innate creativity does not go away. It waits patiently for us to turn the key and let it out again.

Whether we choose to explore and develop our creativity is up to each one of us. Many people go through their entire adult life allowing their creative soul to be kept in the dark, to starve and shrivel. Others take a course in painting or photography or writing, enjoy the experience and the way it opens their eyes to new possibilities but then life gets in the way and they put any further “indulgence” on hold. And some of us grab the chance to enrich our lives through our creative pursuits, hang on tight and don’t let go. That’s why we keep sketching or quilting. Or writing.

But even as writers we need to remember to expand our creative horizons, to pursue interests and activities that complement our writing. Julia Cameron calls this “filling the well”. In The Artists’ Way she talks about the danger of allowing our artistic well to dry up. To replenish the well we need to fill it with images and the way to do this is to engage in pursuits that use our senses: sight, touch, taste, sound and smell. She says: In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do – spiritual sit-ups like reading a dull but recommended critical text. Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you; think mystery, not mastery.

Write a list of as many activities as you can think of that will help you fill your artistic well with images and ideas.

Here’s a few to start with:

  • go for a walk – alone
  • listen to some inspiring music
  • pick up a pencil and free-draw to that music
  • make a collage or a scrapbook
  • swim, run, jog, ride a horse…
  • go for a drive in the country
  • sew, knit, mosaic
  • sculpt
  • go for a walk with your camera and snap whatever speaks to you
  • sit in a coffee shop and people watch
  • sit by the ocean or in a garden or park
  • visit a gallery – take your time

Whatever ideas you come up with do them regularly and do them alone. Solitude gives us time to be ourselves and the space for our creative souls to emerge.

Not only will your writing benefit from the well-filling, as Hugh Mackay says, you’ll be a happier, more contented person. And isn’t that what we all crave?

What do you do to feed your creative soul?