Our regular novelists' group met the other day. We all seemed to be suffering from the same malaise. A sense of exhaustion, lethargy, lack of inspiration, inability to Buckle Down. Had we all mysteriously co-contracted M.E.? We began to share stories.
A cold virus which went on and on; a virus of the virtual kind which clobbered a computer and threatened to lose all its data; a printer which printed at the rate of one page per minute, and thereafter refused to print at all; ludicrously, but painfully, an infected toe. And that was just me.
Variously, we put our collective malaise down to: lack of sunshine (the Long, Hot, Barbecue Summer having materialised once again as the Short, Cold, Chilblain, Typhoon); the fact that so many people we knew were having problems and needed help and support; the downturn in the economy and its effect on the publishing business; the fact that rejections were far outnumbering encouragements.
And yes, these were certainly all factors. But as we talked, we realised that the true underlying cause wasn't M.E. It was W.E. Writer's Ennui. The simple fact was that we'd temporarily lost our inner balance. Energy going out was not being matched by energy coming in. Our writers' buckets were empty.
Some of you may be too young to remember that old Harry Belafonte song:
'There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.'
The song is circular. Liza suggests Henry mend the hole in the bucket with straw. The straw is too long, so she suggests he cut it with an axe. The axe is too blunt, so she suggests he sharpen it with a stone. The stone is too dry, so she suggests he wet it with water. And the only way of fetching water is...in a bucket. This is what W.E. feels like. Our energy seems to take us nowhere but in circles. There's a general sense of drainedness, of pointlessness. We realised we each needed to fill our individual buckets - but how?
Writing this blog post sent me to my bookshelves, and - thank God - to Julia Cameron. This woman knows her creativity. She's been there, done it, written the books. Just leafing through five of them began to remind me.
'Sanity in writing means writing with relative ease and fluidity. It means writing from a full well and not an empty one. Sanity in writing means recognising that we are a creative ecosystem and that without fresh inflow and steady outflow the pond of our inner resources can grow stagnant and stale.'
Cameron suggests that at times of W.E. we need to 'fill the well, not fish from it'. And what do we fill it with? Well, that's a very individual thing, but here are some suggestions:
- Wear colours you love and which suit you - ditto jewellery. Get a haircut. Get a massage.
Spend time with a friend whose presence nourishes you. Buy yourself a bunch of
- Go to the cinema, the theatre, to a concert, an exhibition. Buy books which feel like an
indulgence and read them. Go to a theme park, a circus, a botanical garden - somewhere
you'd never normally go.
- Walk by the sea, in the country, in a forest. Lie in the sun and look at the clouds. Take a
yoga lesson, a dance class, a run.
- Say 'yes' to three invitations you'd normally say 'no' to.
Take a scan of your life and notice where the holes are, where the energy is draining out. Mend the holes in any way that's right for you. Lower the bucket into the water of your choice, and allow it to fill.
That's why 'well-being' is so named. And that's when 'hole' becomes 'whole'.