This week I want to answer a couple of questions that Ms. Kiri Callaghan posed to both her friend, as well as to anyone watching, in one of her beautiful “Miss You, Talk Soon” videos. First, she asked “What is your zen?” She talks in her video about how Disney has become her zen place. If I’m being honest, mine is far more mundane. My zen, the place where I can go to reset my brain, is my local coffee shop. I go there every Saturday morning, buy a chai tea and a pastry and I sit there, by myself with my notebook for an hour or two. Sometimes I write, sometimes I read, sometimes I people watch. These little coffee shops, usually pretty slow on a Saturday morning right after opening, have become my little haven, my escape from the rest of my week. I don’t really go to them during the week at all, and I don’t buy myself starbucks or much of anything from coffee shops in general, except for my Saturday morning ritual. Its a quiet moment at the end of a very loud week where even if someone has come with me, I can just breath and relax. There is one other place that I think qualifies as my zen, and that is water, really of any kind. I was a competitive swimmer for 13 years, and I used to joke that it was my therapy. Once I stopped swimming I realized that wasn’t a joke. Whether its swimming laps, jumping in the ocean when I go back to Florida or dragging my partner in to Lake Michigan even though we both know it is way too cold, something about being in and surrounded by water makes my soul happy. It is like hitting a hard reset on my stress and the mute button on all of the nagging voices in my head.
The second question that Kiri asked in a more recent video is “What refills your creative cup?” I usually refer to this as my “Well”, a term that I’m stealing from Julia Cameron and her book “The Artist’s Way” (which incidentally I highly recommend any creative person at least read through. I did not do it as a class, but rather read, did, and still do, the morning pages). I often end up with the feeling of being creatively dried up. For writers this often seems to hit in the staring at a blinking cursor on a screen while your brain is entirely silent. My first response when I notice this is to take a look around at my physical space. I find it almost impossible to create in a cluttered or messy space, so if I’m having trouble focusing I will usually stop and clean for a bit. It is amazing how much more relaxed I feel afterwards, even if it was just straightening up the bedroom where my writing desk is. My second choices are usually reading or coloring. Both of these activities let me turn off the brain chatter and let my mind relax. I especially like coloring because of the total clearing of the mind that I experience, whereas with reading I’m being pulled in to a specific story, actions, and emotional experiences. Studies have shown that 20 minutes of coloring has the same effect on the brain as 20 roughly minutes of meditation. Personally, my Creative Coloring Inspirations book is a favorite of mine, closely followed by a mandala coloring book.
And then there’s Pinterest. I know, I know it is a timesuck, but honestly I am a sucker for my favorite literary quotes put with a nice picture, or thumbing through various hair colors and makeup styles that I hope to at some point emulate. I used to keep a sketch book purely for pictures that I liked, from magazines, printed from the internet, anywhere I could find them. Pinterest is now my sketchbook. It’s just a little pile of things that keep me motivated and happy. I try not to spend too much time on it, but occasionally it is a wonderful way to just clear my head and find some beautiful yoga pictures that make me look forward to my next class.
Everyone has their own way of hitting their reset button or refilling their creative well. We forget to do it as creators because we are always so concerned with what we are creating and I at least have a hard time reminding myself that time spent refilling the well is time invested in your creative endeavors. I am working very hard on reminding myself that self care is not only important, but imperative to the creative process.
How do you re-fill the well? Where do you find your zen? Let me know if the comments, on twitter, or if you prefer videos like Kiri, post a link!
You can find all of Kiri’s videos here on her youtube channel.