Author Toolbox, Inspiration, Journey, Writing

Filling the Well

It is a phrase I use a lot, much more now since the pandemic has kept us squirreled away in our homes. More time for writing during the lockdown was wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to replenish the creative well I draw from. Now that we can venture out a little more freely, I am changing that. My Muse is ready for some action.

The ways to replenish your creative store is endless, and will vary depending on your needs and what you have available to you. What I have found is, it isn’t so much what you are doing, but that you actively immerse yourself in the experience. I believe being present in the moment, amplifies the benefits, and I don’t know about you, but I am completely here for it.

The list that follows is not exhaustive, but showcases some of the things I have been doing to refill my well of inspiration. When participating in any of these activities, I try to keep my phone off and my mind fully engaged in the conversation, views, or experiences around me. Here are some things I have done most recently that made my Muse happy.

Day Trips

As much as I love vacations, sometimes there is no good way to fit them in. It is especially hard if you have a day job with limited days off, a young family to take care of, or the lack of funds. I have been there at one point or another with all of those things, and I found that taking days off sporadically for a single purpose gives me the creative boost I need.

When my kids were younger, it was trips to the zoo, or nearby amusement park. The focus at that time was really on them and supporting their experience, but I always found great joy in watching them have fun. Some of my best memories were made that way. Now as an adult, I am able to plan things that cater to my Muse and have tried to fit in more leisurely experiences.

Recently, I took a day off went to the immersive VanGogh exhibit in my area. From my understanding, it has been making its way around the world, and if it comes to you I would highly recommend checking it out if you are able. What I enjoyed most, was standing in the center of the room, without anyone in my field of view, and absorbing his art. The music they played caused the crowds to disappear, leaving me alone to enjoy being part of his painting. It was like I was in his canvas with the paint flowing all around me. So cool! There were so many things I didn’t know about VanGogh and I loved learning more about this prolific artist.

Beyond VanGogh – An Immersive Experience – Detroit, MI

Another day trip that I recently took in my state, was the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Two things, 1) I have no idea why it took me so long to get there, and 2) I will definitely be back! It takes my love for floral design, gardening, and art, and blends them into one fantastic experience. For those who can’t do a lot of walking, they have a trolley tour (for an extra charge) that takes you around and shares the history about the founders. The ride gave us a great overall view of the outdoor sculptures. They also have a fantastic interactive children’s garden with a splash area, so be sure to pack some suits!

Photo Credit: D.A. Henneman – Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

They also have concerts in their outdoor amphitheater, which I haven’t been able to get to yet, but it is on my list. It is a casual bring your own chair type thing, and if you are ever in the Grand Rapids, MI area and want to check it out, you can link to their website here: https://www.meijergardens.org/

Writer Weekends

The writer in me gets excited just talking about these, and I try to squeeze them in as often as humanly possible. One-on-one time with your work in progress is invaluable, and when you set time aside to immerse yourself in your story, magic will happen! I have no less than 3 of these planned this year, perhaps it is my way of making up for the lost year of travel. These weekends can be as elaborate or as simple as you make them, and I’ve known writers who book a hotel room for a night or two where they can be alone with their thoughts. I am all for that, since it gets you into a new space, without outside obligations hounding you. Often times it also gifts you with a new frame of mind, a super valuable thing to receive if you are in a funk.

The writing events I participate in are pretty simple. We plan for meals, pack comfy clothes, and bring our laptops. You should be prepared to write in any means necessary, meaning if the WiFi is spotty that is no excuse, drag out your notebook and pen! I plan ahead and generally have an idea of what project I will be working on, which works out perfect. The most recent writer getaway I participated in, gave me enough time to wrap up edits on my next book Medusa’s Secret (launching September 2021). The added benefit? I may or may not have also snuck in some time to catch up on some reading.

DA Henneman reading “In Colton’s Custody” by Dana Nussio

I hadn’t spent a lot of time on the west side of our state until recently, and there is so much to experience if you are ever in the area! We spent a day in St. Joseph, MI, and there is a beautiful beach there which gave me a seaside vibe. It was the only day the sun peeked out, the rest of the time it was raining, which was fine since we hardly moved from our keyboards for 5 days. We laughed, typed, and talked about craft, something that writers don’t always get to do with their friends or families.

This trip involved the rental of the house, food/meal planning, and gas, all of which was split by those who attended. What I can’t put a price on, is the time alone with my project. I have been struggling to get words on the page, and just wasn’t motivated to finish anything. This week shared with my fellow writers got me back on track. I have another post about these types of weekends if you are interested at this link: Writers’ Weekends.

The Wild Outdoors

I understand that everything I have mentioned so far has a price tag, so I wanted to also talk about the things we can do that require little or no money. That’s right, I am talking about kicking off your slippers, putting on some shoes, and… yes… I’m going to say it… going outside!

I find that writers tend to be introverted, and find comfort in spaces where they are alone with their thoughts/projects. I find that when I am lucky enough to be in the “flow state” (which doesn’t happen often), I can lose track of all time and space. As much as I love that feeling, most of the time, I am writing or editing, and thinking about all of the things I need to be getting accomplished. Knowing a load of laundry needs to be folded, or a floor needs to be scrubbed, freezes my fingers and frustrates me. That is when it is most important that I head outdoors (or do the tasks if I must, lol). If my fingers can’t be on a keyboard, the next best place is in the dirt. I find an hour or two of weeding generally gets me back on track.

Photo Credit: D.A. Henneman – Zinnias

Alas, this picture is not from my garden, which is woefully in need of a makeover, but it is from a flowerbox in front of a restaurant where I had lunch . (I may or may not be still avoiding the housework… but this is a no judgement zone.) I like to take pictures like these when I am out doing everyday things, and one of my favorite things to do is to take photos of street art (some folks call it graffiti). Street art comes in all forms, and can be found in a variety of places. If you are being actively present in the moment, you can find a lot of really cool stuff along your journey by just keeping your head up and scanning your surroundings.

Artist Unknown – Austin TX – Photo Credit: D.A. Henneman using Werble

Now granted, this picture was taken in Austin during a trip, but we were just out walking around and taking in the sites when I came across this image painted on a concrete wall. It didn’t cost me a thing to enjoy it, and there are just as many cool things just waiting outside your home. Honestly, you don’t even need to get out of your lounge pants if you don’t want to, an hour sitting on your porch/deck/balcony with face to the sunshine can work miracles… trust me I know.

As I mentioned, there are countless ways to the fill the well, and only you will know which ones suit you best. As much as I love to be alone with my thoughts and write, I find that I’m just not effective at it unless I keep a steady flow of experiences coming in. Next time you go anywhere, try to be conscious of how you are experiencing things. Are you fully in the moment? Put your phone down(except to take pictures), and soak in the place you are and the people you are with. You might be surprised what you find.

Happy Writing and Safe Travels! XO

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