Margaret Mizushima Asks What Do You Do to Fill the Well?

Margaret Mizushima Asks What Do You Do to Fill the Well?

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 police procedural series, set in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her latest post here.

Years ago (Could it possibly have been twenty?) I came across a book by Julie Cameron and Mark Bryan titled The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self. Many of you have probably read this book, and it’s still popular today. The book wasn’t meant to be just for writers. The lessons in it inspire creativity of any form, from painting and sculpture to creating a business plan or marketing campaign.

Margaret Mizushima with Hannah and Bertie

Here is the book’s cover flap description: “The Artist’s Way is an empowering book for aspiring and working artists. With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julie Cameron and Mark Bryan lead you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.”

This book jumped at me from the shelf during a time in my previous career when I’d been working hard for decades as a service provider and business owner in a tumultuous medical industry. I was burned out. I grabbed a copy, began following the twelve-week program, and found a novelist buried inside me yearning to write. Thus began an ongoing cycle for me of learning, creating, revising, and learning, which continues today.

The Artist’s Way employs two basic tools: Morning Pages and the Artist Date. Morning Pages are three pages of journal writing each morning before your day starts, spilling whatever is in your mind onto the page; while the Artist Date involves taking yourself on a date, all alone, to replenish your creative energy. It involves things like going to a museum, going on a hike, or going to a fair or market to sample unfamiliar sights, tastes, and sounds.

The Artist Date is a powerful way to fill your creative well, to open yourself to insight, inspiration, and guidance. Early in my journey, I tried going to local museums, art fests, and sidewalk bazaars, but I soon learned that what truly filled my creative well was going into nature. This led to a weekly hike in green spaces and in the mountains, even spending time outside with our dogs. I treasured these times and always came home filled with creative energy.

Things have become so busy nowadays that I have trouble taking a day off for a hike. The lockdown during the pandemic took its toll on public places, and even some of the national parks were closed to visitors. But now things are opening up, and it’s time to restore the artist dates in my schedule—I just need to find activities that are close at hand. And I’d like to have a wide variety of things to sample.

So…I’m curious. What do you do to fill your creative well?

Margaret Mizushima

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, police procedurals featuring a deputy, her K-9 partner, and a veterinarian who live in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more about her on her website, www.margaretmizushima.com, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Joy Ann Ribar

    What a great idea you shared in this post, Margaret. An Artist Date is exactly what I need. I’ve been thinking about a week long retreat for months now, but maybe I just need a weekly date with myself to restructure my writing brain. Awesome advice!

    1. Joy, I love the idea of a week long retreat, and have thought I’d do that too some time. But since it’s so hard to carve out a week, an Artist Date might be just the thing for both of us. Hope you enjoy yours!

  2. I just need to retreat, period. I love walking, though. An extended hike to the local Trader Joe’s (which is up to four miles away). Laps around our nearest indoor mall when it’s too hot to be outside. Walking is was makes me happy. Oh, and I sew. That helps, too.

    1. I used to sew before work and kids took over my life. Right now I think I need a more active outlet. But the indoor Artist Dates are best when the weather is so hot–like you said. Hope you get the retreat soon!

  3. Christine DeSmet

    My walks every day close to beautiful, colorful meadows in my neighborhood really help a lot. I smile during the entire walk, I bet. Even on a snowy day my natural landscape does it for me. I also love meeting with friends and not only writing friends because I learn something new and learning is a really great way to re-energize creativity.

    1. Yes, learning through a conference, meeting with friends, or a writing group can be very energizing. I think we all missed that last year. I’ve been grateful for my Rocky Mountain chapter MWA meetings via Zoom. The speakers at those meetings always bring new ideas to spark imagination.

  4. Valerie Biel

    Love this idea of artist dates! I’ve been enjoying the time in my garden. Often, I have spotify or an audiobook playing to keep me company, but lately I’ve switched those off and just enjoyed being outside in nature. It makes me feel like I’ve had a mini-vacation (even though I’ve been weeding or harvesting or whatever.) Equally though, I have to say I love changing up my routine to go places and poke around a flea market or antique mall or spend time with friends. All of these give me sort of a creative re-charge.

    1. Sounds so lovely, Valerie! Gardening can be such a retreat for people when they love it. There’s something about getting back to nature, especially when growing fresh vegetables. These are all great ideas. Thanks!

  5. marilynlevinson

    Margaret, I read The Artist’s Way and thought it was a wonderful book. So glad you reminded me of its many memorable messages. I love my yoga and exercise classes, my walks, and, like Christine, meeting with friends as well as reading, knitting, and doing puzzles. I think we require a variety of activities, all of which help replenish our spirit and nourish our creativity.

    1. I agree. It’s that all work and no play admonition. As I get things ready for our move, I think the play part in my life has taken a hit. Things are shaping up here though, and I’ll soon get back to it. Thanks for your ideas!

  6. saralynrichard

    Thanks for the book recommendation. A few of my students would benefit from reading it, I’m sure. I’ve always used exercise as my go-to strategy for working out creativity plans. Over the past 18 mos., my well has run dry several times, so I’ve had to be, uh, creative, in figuring out ways to fill it. One thing that no one has mentioned yet is laughter. I find that when I laugh, it lubricates my thinking, and I’m better able to accelerate productivity. And, p.s., I’m glad your burned out of that former business, because I love your writing!

    1. Thanks so much, Saralyn! I think 2020 dried up a lot of our wells, and it feels better getting back to some semblance of normal, even thought we’re not there entirely yet. I just returned from a trip with my sister and an old friend we went to grade school with–and we laughed the entire time! Yes, laughter is very good for the soul. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Sheila Lowe

    I remember the book, though I never read it. For me, a walk on the beach is the best it can get. Mostly, though, I’m too lazy to get up off my chair and go (it’s only 7 or 8 miles away). This is a good reminder to do it. Thanks, Margaret.

    1. Oh, a walk on the beach…such a treat! My daughter lives a mile away from her beach near the Pacific. The air is so different there! Very energizing and relaxing at the same time. Enjoy!

  8. Laurie Buchanan

    Margaret — I thoroughly enjoyed your post! I’ve read The Artist’s Way twice and loved it each time. What do I do to fill my creative well? I walk, walk, and then walk some more—two miles each time for a total of six miles each day.

    1. And I love the photos you take along the way! You have such a beautiful place to walk and I can imagine how it fills your creative well. Thanks for sharing those photos on Twitter!

  9. Sherrill Joseph

    Margaret, thanks for the book recommendation and your comments. I like the Artist Date idea. Now, I have a name for my morning routine: I’m up and out the door around 6 a.m. to work on my daily 10,000 steps goal. I often walk past some beautiful old Spanish-stucco homes that are wrapped up in childhood memories. I’ve gotten more than one writing idea from seeing them. I also walk my dog twice a day (he’s slow, so it’s great for visiting with neighbors, but hardly a cardio challenge!), and I do yoga and weight training in a park nearby each week. Since the world reopened, the appointments, errands, and have-to’s have increased. The Artist Date is a must for me to recharge my creative batteries. I just love the alone time. And I’m a cheap date!

    1. That’s interesting how you get ideas from buildings and I’m sure the architecture of homes that remind you of your childhood. Wonderful! And the idea of movement and exercise is a great counter to the sedentary time we spend with our writing. Great ideas for filling the well! And I agree that our calendars are filling up again. I need to remind myself to put some time in there for myself. Thank you for your comments!

  10. Sharon Lynn

    Thank you for the wonderful suggestions, Margaret! For me, my well really is a well. I need water! Since I live in the desert I crave cloudy days and large bodies of water. I live by an urban lake in Arizona and have a boat in SoCal. By the water is where I am happiest and most creative.

  11. Sounds wonderful, Sharon. If we’re successful in relocating this year, it will be the first time in my life that I’ll live by the water. I’m excited about trying out a whole new climate and ecosystem. (And I hope it helps feed my creativity!)

  12. Tracey Phillips

    Margaret, I love this! During two recent trips to Washington, I took solitary hikes on the beach and in the mountains. This time alone with nature was absolutely rejuvenating on so many levels. When I returned home, I keep trying to find a way to make those Author Dates happen again. Oh precious time! It is important to honor it. With your voice at the back of my mind, I’ll make it happen.
    Thank you!!

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