In my yearly overview post for 2021, I talked shortly about how my word for the year was kindness. I also said that I would talk more about that later.
And! Here we are!
I’m kicking off my first writing post of the year with a bang: a two-part series on filling your cup as a creative. This is something that will influence you forever – not just this coming year.
Let’s do this.
What an interesting pair of words. And yet, they are the subject of this whole post.
You see a lot of posts out there on how to get inspired to write – and I certainly have contributed to those.
But I haven’t heard much on this subject:
Stopping the input.
Back in September, I began a 90-day long sort of fast.
- No social media (YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest – though I obviously made an exception for blogging)
- Literal fasting twice a week food-wise
- Only reading spiritual books
- No spending money on anything unnecessary
- No sweets
I consider those months to have been invaluable to me. They gave me time to consider on the spiritual side of things where I wanted to go in the future. I didn’t read any books, besides a couple of audiobooks, meditated for 60 minutes each day, and did a lot of praying.
I basically shut out the world around me. It was incredibly hard in some aspects, especially at first – and then especially at the end. But it taught me a lot about controlling myself and possessing self-will. It taught me about my relationship with food, even, and reminded me how much I love reading.
But something unexpected happened towards the end of this.
I started getting ideas.
Why This was Strange
If you followed what I was up to over the last year (or just read my yearly overview post), then you know how much I struggled with coming up with ideas. In fact, I constantly complain how hard I find brainstorming to be! Coming up with ideas? Out of thin air??
I know, high expectations.
And yet, out of the blue, without even trying…
I was creating.
Let me completely transparent: I am like, the worst person ever at coming up with original ideas. 😂 The first books I wrote were the most bland books about tweens with superpowers in existence. The second idea I went for was a total Rangers Apprentice rip-off. The third verged on being more original… the second time around. But still, I couldn’t get my own world straight. After that I wrote something literally based on someone else’s story for lack of my own, and then, at long last, contemporary. Which ironically is my most original story, because everything is based on the internal conflict.
Between all those books, I’d started and stopped multiple stories within a couple of pages (during the first couple years of my writing journey, I was a hardcore pantser, which led to a lot of abandoned stories), literally taken down a story I’d self-published, went too far with planning a different story, was unable to pull together a story I had no true direction for, and, despite trying for months and months last year I just couldn’t land on the proper idea for The Starlight Book.
IT’S VERY DEPRESSING. AND AGGRAVATING.
If you happen to be around when I’m working on brainstorming a book, something you’ll hear me say nowadays is, “I know this could be great… if I could just figure it out.”
That pretty much sums up what brainstorming is for me: I now only choose to pursue stories I believe in. So, it’s like I know that it could be awesome… if I could just fIgUrE iT oUt.
The reason I tell all of that is because I want it to be abundantly clear how not-good I am at coming up with ideas. I suck at it, quite frankly, which is not a normal trait in a writer.
So being able to get ideas??
It was amazing.
And I, of course, wanted to know why.
Emptying out Your Mind
*rubs hands together* Okay, so this is where it gets interesting.
There were a lot of different things going on in my life at the time that could be the possible source of my newfound idea creation abilities. I literally made a list up above.
But the one that I quickly landed on that truly made the most sense to me was just how empty my mind was.
I had cleared out my brain of… stuff.
Picture me saying that word with intense disgust for the kind of emphasis I desire here.
No small video games with no point (as in ones without any interesting characters, world building, and plot line to inspire me creatively). No awful books as I attempt to find some good ones. No social media.
No constant input.
Instead, I cultivated… peace. Mindfulness. Deeper thought.
And, somehow, by clearing out my brain, I created space to create.
What goes in comes out
To put it quite simply, what you fill yourself with is what will come out of you. It’s like food: if you take in food full of nutrients, you will benefit from those; if you eat junk food, you will produce junky results.
When you fill your cup with stuff that doesn’t mean anything to you, how can you possibly expect yourself to produce something that means anything to you?
People refer to creativity in different ways: juice, energy, a well… or a cup. It’s like coffee: if you want to drink good coffee, then you have to first fill your cup. But you could fill it with whatever you want! Including sub-standard coffee. (Or whatever your preferred beverage is. Maybe orange juice. Whatever floats your goat, man.)
To make room to overflow with the good stuff, you need to first empty your cup of the useless stuff that doesn’t mean anything to you. You clear out mental space, and you give yourself room to actually breathe, think, and, most importantly, create.
This whole 90-day thing lasted in some aspects, and dropped off towards the end in others. (Mainly food dropped; I was starting to create unhealthy mindsets around it, so I had to try to offset that 😅) Some of these things I’ve continued doing even after (like meditating) and others, I’m trying to find a healthy balance (such as with social media, which is kind of a big part of being an entrepreneur).
Not all of it felt like kindness to myself at the time, but it was. That’s the thing about kindness towards yourself: sometimes, it means pushing yourself even when you don’t want to be pushed. You’ll feel worse about yourself later if you don’t.
Which brings me to a final point:
That’s what I started with, so now I want to kind of circle back and expound upon it slightly.
Not everyone can do a full 90-day thing like I did. But I would highly encourage you to try. At least with one thing.
Speaking from a creative sense, I would like to encourage you to stop the input.
In this day and age, we are constantly bombarded by input. Emails, social media, ads, video games, books, movies… it just never ends! Someone always wants our attention. But this is not what human beings were created for. We were created for living.
I’d encourage you to try and turn down the sound and tune in more to yourself. That’s what I’m trying to do. Some days are better than others, obviously, but that’s okay.
Here’s a couple of ways you could try to do this:
- Unfollow. Just go into your social media, and start unfollowing people who don’t actually add any value to your life.
- For YouTube, this is easy: try and think of a time they impacted your life in a positive way and helped you move towards your goals. If they didn’t, you can unfollow them. (I know that some people like to continue following humorous creators, though, just for the days they need a laugh – and it is a good practice of self-control. But beware of leaving too many!)
- For Instagram, you can ask if you actually know the person. If it’s a family member or friend, then sure, that’s probably a good person to follow. But if you don’t know the person very well, don’t follow anything else they do very closely and they add no value to your life, then you can unfollow them.
- For Pinterest… actually, literally no one looks at who they follow on Pinterest. 😂
- Just determine what amount of value you’re looking for, and then unfollow people based on that bar that you’ve set. If someone you follow actually teaches you something, adds something of value to your life, or is someone you value as a person, then they’re probably a good person to follow.
- Stop buying things you don’t need.
- This might sound a tiny bit weird, I know. But by not buying anything you don’t need, you’ll actually keep the space around you free of clutter as well. This can help you with freeing up your mind.
- Let’s be honest: you don’t need a ton of material things to be happy. This is a good practice for your whole life, will help you save for what you actually need, and teaches you self-will and how to control yourself. You are not a slave to your desires.
- Spending some time quietly.
- We live in a culture where everyone is always go go go! There’s always something to be done, and it must be done now. As writers, we know what it’s like to hustle, especially since we have to get ourselves to do it; there’s no one holding a gun to our head and forcing us to write. Just us and our will.
- Spending time in quiet might sound counter-productive, but trust me on this one: it can really help you find some peace in this loud world and ultimately center you to do better work throughout your day and be more focused. You could be distracted for a couple hours today while still being at your computer… or just take 20 or 30 minutes now to get quiet and introspective with yourself.
- Personally, I like to meditate on my faith. It’s a good way for me to remember to put God first in my life as well as grow closer with Him.
- Delete your apps.
- Phones are constantly in front of us, on our person, and in our hand. The apps we have on it can seriously affect what fills our mind and what we do with our time.
- There are so many utterly useless apps on a phone. If you want to play sudoko, do it on paper. Blue light isn’t good for you. If you want to do a colour by number, same thing. If you want to build up your own town, at least do so in a proper video game by Nintendo, like Animal Crossing or Breath of the Wild.
- To be clear, I’m not against video games: I think they can be super fun and teach us things as writers. But if they aren’t even a true video game, then what’s the point??
- Again, to test them: ask what value they add in your life. I know that I keep one app on my phone because it’s something my family bonds over, but other than that, I’ve made sure to delete off anything else. It frees up so much time… and mental space.
I know I’ve heard Kate and Abbie talk about how you need to clear out your mental clutter. I think this is taking it slightly further, as I’m talking a full-on deep clean, uprooting, and restart.
But it honestly does wonders for your creativity. This is because your mind is so full of stuff, it’s almost bogged down by it all.
Again: we were not meant to take in so much information. For years, our ancestors knew only about their neighbours, the richer people through gossip, and overseas through stories. There was no internet, no way to see what someone else ate for lunch who lives a couple countries away.
I see the online world we have available to us today as a blessing and a tool. It’s a way for people like us writers to reach a wider audience with our words. Jane Austen wrote on paper, but I can tap away at my keyboard and knock out a thousand words without a wrist cramp.
It’s just a matter of using them mindfully.
So free your creativity.
Once you empty the space in your mind, it will get filled… but this time, with your own ideas. It can take a little bit of time for it to happen, but trust the process.
If you liked this post, you might also like:
I actually have more content on this subject coming in 2 weeks, so if you don’t want to miss that, make sure to subscribe! These two posts are kind of a compilation of everything I’ve learned on this subject through trial and error, so you definitely don’t want to miss it. (Jeez, I sound like some sort of click-bait YouTuber 😂)
If you liked this post or it helped you in some way, maybe consider buying me a Kofi (or chocolate croissant)! 😉 It helps support me and my blog, and will help me to build to even bigger and better things in the future.
That aside, I’d love to chat in the comments below! If you think a writing friend of yours would benefit from this post, please don’t hesitate to share a link with them! 😊 Every kind word and share means the world to me.
Do you struggle with being kind to yourself at all?
How much of the world do you let into your mind?
Are you going to try implementing anything I suggested today? 😉 No pressure or anything! 😝