Filling Your Cup as a Creative {Part 2}

Welcome back! Two weeks ago, we looked at how you can fill your cup creatively through mindfully starving yourself.

Today, we’re taking a look at the flip side of this.

Source

Filling your cup creatively by taking inspiration from other things.

After I literally just harped on how important it is to not take in a bunch of stuff, I bet you weren’t expecting this. But, believe it or not, I actually love using things around me as sources of inspiration. I’ve even posted a video where I was using Pinterest to help me generate ideas, okay? (And done multiple blog posts on the subject as well…)

I know what you’re thinking: what is the meaning of this?? How could the beautiful, smart, and skilled writer Julia possibly be saying something like this after she just told me in her last post that I shouldn’t take in a bunch of stuff?

*fluffs hair* Why, thank you so much!

Source

I understand the confusion. Let me try and clear this up for you.

Inspiration

Inspiration is a flighty friend. You get a singular idea of your own, and then you build off of that.

But where do you get the rest of the pieces for your creation?

The answer is from around you.

I don’t care if you write contemporary, horror, or fantasy: you still get inspired by what is around you. When I have a new plot bunny in my head, I can look at practically anything and imagine a situation with my characters around it. When I take note of it, it can later become a core scene in my story. The backbone.

No matter how much of these stories we pull from our heads and make from thin air, we are always going to be influenced by what we take in.

Source

Filling Your Cup

Filling your cup is such an interesting concept. It’s one I had to really work on during 2021, and I think I’ll always be trying to find the best way to balance it.

Here’s the idea: you can’t create non-stop. If you picture your creative energy, creative juice, creative well, cup, or whatever you want to call it… there’s only so much there. Only so much creativity can fill your cup, and once you drink it, it’s gone. So, what do you do?

You need to refill it.

Source

If you constantly are just throwing your head back and chugging without stopping to refill the cup until you’re at the last dregs, then you’re going to burn out really fast. Burn out is something we’ve all experienced (unless you’re a magical unicorn, in which case you can just enjoy being perfect instead), and it is the worst thing that can happen to a creative.

I first stumbled upon the concept of filling your cup in Kate and Abbie’s podcast episode on getting out of a writing rut, actually. They basically said that you can prevent creative burnout from even happening by filling your cup. That really captured my attention: I am the worst person to be around when I’m dealing with burn out. I am a creative! If I can’t create, I am in utter misery.

Source | Basically me

But how could I possibly stop writing long enough to make sure I wouldn’t burn out while still writing consistently?

Kindness

This was my word for 2021, and, boy, did I ever struggle with this. πŸ˜‚

Source | Live footage of me attempting to be kind to myself

I am literally the worst at remembering to take care of myself. I understand work, pushing to finish, straining across the finish line, and finding a way to get something done. But slowing down and taking care of myself??

Source

As a result, my tired brain would instead resort to getting distracted and filling itself up with stuff in an effort to just give itself a break – when I should, you know, be writing. *cough cough*

That’s why kindness is such a balance: you have to know when you need to push yourself, but also when to step back. When you can balance both, you’ll be able to work in harmony with yourself and won’t burn out while still consistently getting work done and getting inspired.

Planning

I love plans. I literally planned this post. I planned the content that I would talk about in it. I also planned how I would be kind to myself. πŸ˜‚

How this worked was that I planned when I would work on writing, in a general sense. I just can’t do calendar blocking, but I can look at a day and know that I can write before leaving for work, and know that I like to write for about an hour. I can also look at a day when I’m off of work and how I worked on writing the day before and say no writing allowed; do fill-the-blank to refill your cup instead.

Some weeks, I would only write 3 days. Others, 5. Like, it seriously depended. Some weeks I just had more creativity and wanted to work more. But others, I needed to push myself each time I sat down.

Pushing

Sounds a little weird, right? How could pushing possibly be kind?

The thing is, it makes you get something done. Not everything is easy; if it were, everyone would do it.

Sometimes, we don’t want to write (or, in my case recently, revise) a scene. This is something that sometimes stops newer writers in their tracks: just because they don’t feel like it, they don’t.

But the thing is, that means that you will never advance towards your goals. How can you possibly make progress while still being kind to yourself??

Here’s the secret:

You do it anyways.

And then you take a break afterwards.

Source

Sometimes, it really is burn out threatening. Other times, it just was a hard scene. But resist! Don’t take a break or stop. Push through and write the scene, even if you’re internally screaming the whole time (which is definitely something I’ve done) or stopping every sentence because you don’t know what the next one will be. At the end of the day, you will look back and be thankful you did it (which is also something I have felt). And then you can take the next day off of writing. (Which, again, is something I’ve done. 🀣)

Harmony

I wrote a different version of this post where I began listing out different ways you can refill your cup. But it just struck me as wrong the whole time; I did literally just talk about how you shouldn’t do that, after all. πŸ˜‚ That would totally make me a hypocrite.

So, I studied what it was I was trying to explain, and have altered the post and the content to actually match that.

I want to explain how to take in inspiration from the world around you, but in harmony with the ideas I worked so hard to explain in my last post: how to keep your mind empty of random stuff and clutter, but also to enjoy other formats of story, draw inspiration from what’s around you, and utilize the tools available to you.

13 Ways to Fill Your Cup

Pinterest

Okay, you probably saw this one coming from a mile away. πŸ˜† But I love using Pinterest as a source of inspiration. It’s especially good for the brainstorming stages of writing.

Just seeing the aesthetic of your book is really something else; Pinterest also tends to suggest pins that end up giving me new ideas, either for facets of the book, or specific scenes or character traits.

Source

Also, I’ve haven’t really tried this personally, but I’ve heard that people like to scroll through their Pinterest board right before writing to help transport their mind into that world. So, like, it’s multi-purpose! 😝

I personally love to use Pinterest at 2 different stages of writing:

  1. when I first get the idea
  2. and when I finally start working on the idea.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have time to be chasing after all the plot bunnies in my head. So, I like to create sections or boards for them all, and instead just leave them be. Whenever I get random ideas, I add them to my Notes; when I see a pin that makes me think of them, I can add it to the section/board.

That way, when I finally start working on the story idea, I have inspiration to draw from that all makes me think of the story. It’s slow, allows you to stay focused on your current WIP, and you don’t even have to be on social media for hours at a time to make it work.

When I start really working on the idea, though, I definitely like exploring Pinterest to spark new ideas in my mind. I take a writing day and just sit down with a notebook, coffee, music, and let myself go crazy on there. It’s an investment in myself, as it’s a source of inspiration for months on end, and whenever I’m stuck.

Source

Ultimately, the visuals of Pinterest just really help me flesh out the world, the message, and the characters in my mind. It’s something I will forever recommend to people.

Music

Another thing people have seen me recommend before! But seriously: music.

Source

The great thing about music is, not only is it amazing for while you’re writing, but while you’re not. I can just listen to music, and if it reminds me of my book, then I can add it to my playlist for that story.

Again, it’s another way to build up your book in your mind and flesh it out – and, bonus, you get to listen to music! Which is obviously a total win. 😝 But, seriously, a playlist curated like this can transport you into this world you’ve created. I know that whenever I hear the songs that are on my playlists for specific books, all I can do is think about the story.

Music in general, though, doesn’t have to be about your book. Never thought I’d say that on this blog about writing… You can just listen to music you like, or try to find new music. I’ve gotten ideas just from listening to songs before, and at the very least, it gives you more options to choose from while curating a playlist in the future! Aaaaand now I’m back to making it all about books. 🀣

Reading

I don’t know about you, but I fell in love with the idea of being a writer because of how much I liked to read. I used to bring home so many books from the library, that we started bringing two bags when we went: one to carry everyone’s books, and one to carry mine. πŸ˜‚

Source

But, to my surprise, as I got older, I… read less?? πŸ€¨πŸ€”

I really didn’t understand or expect this to happen. However, I got busy with high school, and now I’m busy with work (and, soon enough, school again). Reading just is one of the easiest things to fall to the wayside. And so, my reading addiction suffers.

Source

Which is why I’ve started trying to make the time to read! πŸ˜†

Reading can influence so much of what we write: if we enjoy reading one genre more than another, we’re more like to write in that genre, too.

I like to try and mix up what I read: fiction and non-fiction, just for fun and spiritual, enjoyment and learning. I actually wrote out a list of the books I want to read, carefully arranging them so I’d get an even distribution of each type of book. πŸ˜‚

That’s the other thing: reading is awesome, and I 100% endorse it. But you need to carefully choose out what you’re going to read. Don’t just mindless take in whatever: consciously make the choice to read what you want to read. There doesn’t always have to be a specific reason behind it, other than it sounds interesting, but try to look into stories before you read them. Are there any content warnings that could potentially be something you don’t want to read?

Don’t take random crap into your mind; like I talked about in my last post, what goes in comes out. Don’t let your brain space be taken up by something that’s not worthy of it.

Watching Movies

I don’t watch much TV. Like, at all.

But once a week, on Friday night, I watch a show with my family. It’s our family movie night. It’s a way for us to spend some time together and bond over a story; we constantly make references to books movies, music, and past conversations, so this just adds to our repertoire. It gives us something to discuss and dissect together.

It also gives me a chance to take in story in another format.

Like reading your own work, taking in stories in a different format can really change up how you take it in and process it. I like that movies allow me to visually see something play out. It can help me sharpen my own descriptions, because it can help me improve how I mentally image a scene playing out.

It also just can inspire you and gives you something else to analyze to learn from. So, like… it’s for science. 😝

Source

The key for this one is to take it in in moderation; otherwise, you will end up with a bunch of stuff in your brain, which is obviously what we’re trying to avoid here. Just like with reading, choose what you watch; don’t just passively end up watching something random.

Play Video Games

I don’t mean those pocket-phone games or games where all you do is kill people.

No; I’m talking about actual video games: the ones that have deep characters, expansive world building, and interesting storylines.

Source

l love me some Legend of Zelda games: Breath of the Wild, Link Between Worlds, and Twilight Princess are all good ones. (I’ve also heard that Ocarina of Time is, but I still have yet to play that one.)

Source | All the Zelda fans @ me right now

The key to this one is to not just take in a bunch of random stuff – as I keep saying. 🀣

Video games are made to be addicting, so you need to be careful about playing them. There are so many random ones out there with no purpose that are intended to suck you in and keep you trapped there. So, pick and choose quite carefully.

Also, make sure to plan when you’ll play them. Otherwise, because, again, they’re made to be addicting, you could get sucked in and waste hours of your time. In my personal opinion, I don’t think it’s a waste if you do it in moderation and with a game that actually could benefit you as a writer in some way, just like reading. But, again: in. moderation. Otherwise, it will just clutter up your mind.

Learn

This might sound a little weird at first sight (sound?), but learning is one of the biggest ways that I get inspired. Seriously. I don’t do this enough anymore. πŸ˜‚

Star Wars GIF yoda "Much to learn, you still have"
Source

I love watching YouTube videos about writing, whether it’s vlogs about writing experiments or how-to videos. Podcasts on writing are great for when I’m on the go, blog posts for when I’m looking for something specific, and books, of course, for everything else.

There are two reason I love learning about writing so much: because it helps me improve my writing, and because… it’s addicting. Literally. Like, in a scientific way.

For whatever reason, learning more about writing and hearing others talk about writing, doing their own writing, and encouraging me to pick up my pen as well seems to always release a flood of dopamine into my brain. Dopamine is literally an addiction: it’s pleasure. So, not only am I learning, I’m getting inspired, fired up, and happy. Win-win-win.

Just make sure that you don’t spend too much time online learning instead of writing: the best way to learn is through experience by actually doing it. As helpful as learning about your craft is, it can’t be compared to doing it.

Work on a Different Project

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Yes, the way to get inspired for your current project is to drop it like a hot potato and work on something else instead. Obviously.

Source

Not exactly.

I used to work on multiple projects at once, in a sense. I’d focus all my work on just one, and then when I got stuck on it, switch back to the other one. It’s honestly something I’m contemplating picking up again more in earnest, but I tend to focus intensely and on just one project at a time. This makes it extremely brutal when I finish a project, or, even worse, get stuck or burnt out. Having something else to think about that you don’t associate your negative feelings with (like your original project) can be very helpful… and, in a round-about way, inspire you.

Do Something Else Creative!

Bake! Draw! Play music! Dance! Something! Anything! Get your creative juices flowing in a different way than writing makes them. If they’ve been stagnant, this can really help shake them loose again so they can flow for your story.

Source
Source
Source
Source
Source

Hang out with Friends

Humans are social beings. We are meant to interact with other people. Hanging out with someone you like can inspire you in a different way: it creates positive vibes, sparks joy and happiness, and they might even be someone you can talk through your problem with. Or not even think about your writing with, which can sometimes work instead.

Thinking about different things can allow your mind to unwind and sort itself out a bit; it also is just a good self-care thing for yourself, which is an extremely important thing that creatives tend to forget to do.

It’s also good to just get out of your head sometimes; as hard as it can be for us writers sometimes to be in reality, we should make an appearance there every once and a while. 😜

Journal

I personally keep a journal: I write about what is happening in my life, stories that I like telling to others, and my own thoughts and feelings. It’s a way to untangle my life around me and store it away so I don’t have to think about it as much anymore. It can help me to find my way through problems and work out solutions to issues, deciding on what step I want to take next.

Source

When you’re stuck, journaling about it can help you find a solution – or, at the very least, take a step in the direction of finding a solution. As my tagline says: a writer’s journey. This is a journey for all of us, and I can assure you that every struggle you go through is only making you stronger, even if it feels prolonged and like it’s destroying your spirit.

Explore!

Writers are known for being hermits, but it’s good to get out into the world around us and do things. Trying out something new can spark your creativity in ways you don’t expect. After all, we are meant to live. Not just be cooped up in a house, spending out lives in fictional worlds. We also need to take time to be present in the real one and enjoy our own lives.

I look back fondly on all the times I went out of my comfort zone and tried something new. My word for 2019 was jump. The year of the jump. I jumped into new things, tried new things, and had a blast, even if I got burned a few times along the way. (I’m even more glad now that I lived that year the way I did, because covid set in a few months after πŸ˜‚πŸ˜…)

Make sure to spend some time out in nature: if you live in the city, I know this isn’t possible a lot of the time, but try just taking a walk or biking to a park. Do some research on the city you live in to see what’s in it that you could visit, and you might be surprised.

Source

Combine

Try doing multiple of these things. The more you do to help yourself out, the more chance you have at getting inspired.

Take Care of Yourself

You can ultimately save yourself from burnout by jealously guarding your creativity, like a dragon guarding its hoard.

Source

Exercise! Take walks! Get enough sleep! Eat food that will give you the nutrients you need! Always drink your coffee! Practice skincare! And, above all…

Take!

Breaks!!!

Source

This is literally a post all of its own, but step away from the internet, away from your writing, away from whatever platform building you do – whether that be blogging, YouTube, or Instagram – and just take time for yourself.

Starving + Intake

The idea here is to couple starving yourself from too much input while also giving yourself enough material to work with. There’s a tightrope balance there that I’m still trying to find where both exist in harmony. You have enough mental space to actually work, but you’re not starving your inspiration so much that you can’t think of anything.

The most original ideas come from having space. You build those ideas up by taking in more inspiration. It’s a dance where one partner leads and then the other follows.

Source

Here are a few practical tips for this:

Wait

When you want to take in inspiration, wait. Wait until after you have worked on your own projects. Wait to jump onto social media until later in the day, rather than right after you wake up. Wait to start the input until you’ve done some output. Drink that coffee – figuratively and literally. πŸ˜†

Make Time

Make time for both. Like I mentioned earlier in this post, I plan things a lot. So, plan which days you’ll write on and which days you’ll take a break on. Plan what you’re going to do during that break to inspire you so you don’t end up sucked into a video game for too long, binge watching a TV series, or down some social media rabbit hole.

Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit hole "Curiosity often leads to trouble." GIF
Source

Make time as buffers at the beginning and end of the day for yourself. During those times, respect yourself and don’t hop on the internet and start that cycle of intake that tends to continue throughout the whole day. End it at the end of the day so you can unwind before bed. (Blue light is actually bad for your sleep, so this helps you sleep better, which is good for your health!)

Do Normal Things

Okay, this is a wee bit scientific here, but try to take in stuff, and then also do normal, every-day things. Stuff you could do with your eyes closed. Very repetitive things where you don’t need to think.

If you don’t get what I mean, then let me ask you something: have you ever seen a meme about the amazing ideas you get while in the shower?

There’s a reason for that.

You do the exact same thing every time you’re in the shower. Your body can go on autopilot while you brain just wanders wherever it wants. This frees it up to really think, and that’s why you can get some great ideas. Cleaning is a great thing to do as well, or any other receptive task – walking is a good one, as you also get some fresh air at the same time. You get something done, get new ideas, and are letting your ideas stew! Win-win-win.

Curate

Don’t do both mindlessly. Be highly specific about what you’re going to stop (starve) and take in (intake). Be specific about what goes into your mind and when it does: don’t let anything control you. You are in control. You are the writer here, and you are a human being living your own life.

Live Your Life

The key here when it comes to taking in things for inspiration, is not to just take in things and stuff. The idea is to live your life, your best life, and do things you enjoy and love that you know will inspire you – and not just clutter up your mental space. A good way to test things is to think about how you’ll feel at the end of the day: when you look back, will you feel like watching this video or doing this thing helped you in some way? Or will you feel void, like you got nothing done, the stuff you watched and took in did nothing to help improve your life, and you’re less inspired than you were before? (Mental clutter does that to you)

Daydream

This might sound a little weird at first sight, but you should make time to do nothing but think.

This is something I’ve been trying to do again, but I used to spend a lot of time just imagining: I’d go through scenes with my characters in my mind, and then would end up writing them; that would lead to better writing sessions, because I knew exactly how I wanted stuff to play out. It really was an immersive way to explore my story and my characters, and just thinking about your book can help you to understand the world better and get to a place where you can easily slip into it.

Also, this just makes that time and space I keep talking about; you can think about your story, get inspired, and even work on it, but without being on a screen or taking in more stuff.

Don’t forget to save this post for later!

That concludes this two-part series! It has taken me all of my time as a writer to figure out and understand at least this much on this subject. Ultimately, make sure you take care of yourself. That’s the surest way to preserve creativity, happiness, and health.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

How to Deal with Plot Bunnies – The Right Way

Why All Writers Should Be Using Pinterest

How the World Impacts Your Craft as a Writer {Every Writer is Different}


Whew! I hope you liked these first two posts of the year! I have more up my sleeves, so if you don’t want to miss anything, make sure to subscribe! πŸ˜‰

If you liked this post or it helped you in some way, maybe consider buying me a Kofi (or chocolate croissant)! πŸ˜‰ It helps support me and my blog, and will help me to build to even bigger and better things in the future.

Have a great day, my friend; write on.

What are some of your favourite ways to get inspired?

How much of the world do you let into your mind?

Are you going to try implementing anything I suggested today? πŸ˜‰ No pressure or anything! 😝

-Julia

Photo by Prchi Palwe on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.