by Jan Drexler
When I was a mother of young children, I ran into a problem. I call it deficit spending.
I was spending my creativity as I cared for the needs of these helpless children. There is a ten-year age span between my oldest and youngest sons, so I was dealing with pre-adolescent angst at the same time I was potty-training a very determined two-year-old. For years, the time and energy I spent on my children far outweighed the time and energy I put back into myself.
Before long I realized I needed more in my life than diapers and acne treatments. Homeschooling my children helped, and so did Bible study. They both opened new doors to learning and using my mind. As those doors swung wide, I searched for new ways to fill the tank of my creative energy that I depleted rapidly through the hours of the day.
Then I ran across a concept that is now well-known in homeschooling circles: “mother culture.” The idea is that parents, to teach and raise their children, need to refresh and refuel their own minds. They need to make sure the well doesn’t run dry.
The same thing can happen to writers. Crafting a book from a germ of an idea into a published work takes creative effort that can exhaust you unless you’re careful to avoid deficit spending.
There are three main ways I refuel my creativity:
The first is reading. I always tell writers to read, read, read, and then read some more! I read fiction and non-fiction, inside and outside of my genre. I’m careful to read with my brain turned on so I can engage with the authors. The classic, “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren is a great help in learning how to read this way.
The second way I refuel is with art. I am a visual person, so the visual arts appeal to me. I spend time working on crafts that please my visual sensibilities. A beautiful picture or a pleasing landscape (created by the true Artist) is a geyser of fresh water in my creative well.
The third way I keep my creative well full is with music. I am a poor piano player, but I love playing. (There is no rule that says you must be good at something to enjoy it!) So, I set aside at least ten minutes a day to play through a favorite piece or work on learning a new one. I also listen to music. I love the classics, and often have Mozart or Beethoven playing. I also listen to instrumental hymns while I’m working. But my musical tastes are as varied as my reading tastes, and I’m as likely to be listening to The Sons of the Pioneers as I am Pentatonix.
These are activities that keep my creative well from going dry, but they might not be the types of outlets you need. Maybe the thing that keeps you going is an outdoor activity like mountain biking or running. Maybe it’s watching a good movie. Maybe it’s a day at the spa with friends.
The key is to find those things that refresh and refill your mind. Keep the creative well filled, and you’ll find that it spills over into your writing.
Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband of thirty-five years, where she enjoys hiking and spending time with their expanding family. She is the author of several books from Love Inspired Historical, as well as “The Journey to Pleasant Prairie” series from Revell.