After reading Rara’s beautiful post, Life by Number, it made me consider all the ways in which I currently try to refill myself (and all the ways in which I don’t, yet) and fuel my creativity. I’ve been neglecting myself lately, for one reason or another, despite working hard on my essay writing project. The truth is, I’ve been having to re-learn how to be a creative person this year, to invite creativity into my life, and be playful and joyful.
I’m in a better place than I was a year ago, and yet I’ve been neglecting core aspects of life – my mental health, my sense of self, doing things I love doing, exploring the city and surrounding areas, reading the magazines I subscribe to, and going out (by this I mean walking, going to cafés, doing things with myself, just because). There are all these ways to fill up a depleted self, that I don’t make the time for – and it is about making the time, not having the time.
Last night, I was having a crisis: I felt paralysed, trapped, by my own thoughts and internal frustration. All it took, in the end, was to have a shower, work on writing my task lists for the week ahead in the bullet journal, and read a couple of chapters of a book. What can you do but just try and do something, no matter how small, that shifts your mind away from inside? Looking after myself externally does help my mind and emotions to relax and quiet down for a while. So – I take showers, I move around, I paint my nails, I tidy up a little bit, or declutter, or I leave the house and get some air (even if I only have the energy to pop into the garden).
From this week on, I’m going to be trying harder to do those things I’ve been keeping on hold. Go out for daily walks. Document the world through a camera. Read my magazines, which often give me unexpected inspiration. Read poetry, and read essays. Go into London once a week, even if it’s just to sit and people-watch. Trust myself to know what I need and what it is I want. In short, to begin living, to stop making excuses.
What are some of the things you can do to refill yourself? What wisdom do I have for you? All I can give you is some pointers, some things that have worked for me in the past, and things that I want to do in the coming months.
Take yourself out on ‘artist dates’ or just ‘self dates’. This is something I’ve found from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I do feel that it’s something that has worked for me in the past. At University, I used to take myself out into town, wander around, look in bookshops, and browse films in HMV – ending with a coffee and sitting at the window people watching or reading. It’s a way to explore your own internal landscape, and what interests you – what you consider to be fun and rewarding. It can be anything from going to a museum, to just sitting somewhere interesting, to going for a walk somewhere you haven’t been before (or just somewhere you like walking). This is a space for you to fill yourself up, whatever that might mean for you – but you have to do it alone, because it’s a date with you, yourself, and your inner artist.
Watch films in a genre that you don’t normally watch, or in a different language. I go through phases of watching things from a particular ‘genre’ or ‘type’ of film. For example, I went through a period of watching asian films such as Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and Battle Royale. Another time I became enthralled with old films, like Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, and The Big Sleep. I’ve discovered that I love French films, particularly those by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and I’ve found some beautiful, odd films like Only Lovers Left Alive, and Her. The point here is to fill yourself with novelty and to explore a little, to be open to something new and surprising.
Read non-fiction as much as fiction. This is something I’ve enjoyed more over the past three years. I read psychology-related books, memoirs, books of essays, books about creativity and art, about history and how we live, self help (there are some exceptional and useful books out there), compendiums of knowledge, even encyclopedias. I try to always be reading something non-fiction as well as fiction book in tandem, so that I can switch between them. Learning is a lifelong thing, and we can learn so much by reading a wide range of work.
Give yourself space to daydream and let your mind wander. Slowing down and giving yourself space to daydream is important – not just for creative people, but for all of us. We live in a fast-paced, 24-7 world and we don’t give ourselves enough time to breathe, and imagine, and think about other things besides our worries and fears. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted, or go for a wander around the neighbourhood (or in a park). And just let your mind drift.
Try a new recipe, cook your favourite food, or eat somewhere with tasty food (if the budget can stretch). Eating and making good food engages your hands and your senses. Even though I sometimes complain about making food, there is nothing quite like making a tasty plate of something you’ve made yourself. Especially if it features ingredients you love! Feed your body, and feed your heart.
Spend some time playing with animals or children. Choco likes me playing with her sometimes, throwing her catnip mice around and egging her on. She makes me laugh with her big black eyes, loud mews, and running up and down the stairs. Spend some time with kids and pay attention to them and how they see the world, or foster the same kind of childlike curiosity and play in yourself by just messing around with things (drawing, arts and crafts, being silly, etc). Play around without thinking about what anyone else thinks.
Listen to random playlists of music. Spotify is great for this – I’ve found a few new favourite musicians and songs this way. I also find that I listen to classical music playlists despite not knowing much at all about the genre, and I’ve re-discovered my love of 90s and early 00s RnB. I’m a little fed up with Spotify at the moment as they’re making changes to their lyrics program (they’ve parted ways with MusicXMatch), though they’re developing their own feature. Again, trying new types of music is great for creative novelty and ideas generation.
Do a form of movement that you love. Whether dancing, swimming, walking, running, yoga, or cycling, do a form of movement that you enjoy, or try something new that you think you might enjoy. The goal here is not to overdo it or do it because it’s a form of mandatory exercise, but because it’s something you want to do, that will make your body stronger and will get your blood pumping to your brain. To feel better about ourselves, we have to pay attention to our body and what it needs too. Sometimes filling yourself up can just be attending well to the basics – food, activity, sleep.
Set up a group that meets every so often – for example, a book group. Bringing together a small group of people who enjoy the same activity works wonders, bringing new perspectives and ideas. It doesn’t need to be a big group, in fact it’s better if it’s small (6-8 people max), so everyone gets a chance to contribute something. If it’s a book group, for example, it means that you’ll hear other people’s perspectives of the same book, and will get into some interesting discussions about all kinds of things.
Explore your city, area, or town as if you’re a tourist. This will you give you a fresh way of seeing what you might see every day. Go and see things that you think are only for tourists. Read a guidebook or website about where you live. Learn more about the history and culture, even if you think you know it all. Rediscover favourite places, and find new ones. Stumble across hidden places and quiet places. Document everything – photos, art, writing. Let yourself feel wonder again.
I hope some of these suggestions go some way towards inspiring you to refill yourself with amazing things, and take the time to look after your creativity and self. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself – you need to in order to be the best version of yourself, and to have the energy to take on the things that life brings. Give yourself some space to recover from creating and socialising too – you lose energy and need to rest, refuel, and just be. You don’t have to always be doing things for other people, at the expense of looking after yourself. To be a good friend, partner, and person, we have to look after ourselves too.
This marks the tentative return of Monday Night Inspiration posts – where I share something that will inspire you, give you motivation, or just make you feel good. Wishing you wonderful things in the week ahead.
‘When you do things from your soul,
you feel a river moving in you, a joy.’ – Rumi.