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Refilling the Creativity Tank

I did a creative writing course a few years ago. The instructor talked about how she saw and was able to walk through her novel settings in her head. I thought that was pretty cool, but I don’t do it that. I wish I could though. I’ve always wanted to fly a dragon to K-Mart. I bet the kid behind the DVD counter would pay attention when he served me then.

I get inspiration from lots of things, mostly random ones. I once wrote an entire short story that sprang to mental life after seeing someone on the train opening a chocolate pudding cup. From there sprung my hero who at first I thought was an alien but turned out to be a 9 year old boy who wanted to be a ranger & impress his dad. I should really edit that.

Songs, pictures, scents in the air. Music. Music inspires me. Second to reading, music has to be on of my passions. Unfortunately I can’t carry a tune in a bucket but listening to – and joining- the artists journey carries my mind from the mundane.

In what seems like a life time ago now I had a breakdown. Depression is a bastard of an illness. At the time of the breakdown I was at the lowest point in my life. No job, no money, losing my unit, credit cards maxed out and living on $25 a dollar a fortnight for food.

I spent a lot of my time in my garage drinking during the day. The garage had no windows. The rest of the townhouse had a lot of large windows. It was one of the reasons I moved there. Sunlight and air streamed into the place.

On night I was sitting by the large windows downstairs. Just looking at the darkness and the street lights. It was just before I moved out. I sat there remembering the excitement & joy I’d felt when I moved in, and I wallowed in the sadness and pain of loosing so much when I lived there.

As I sat on the floor, watching the sleeping complex I saw a figure move in the dark. Mist rolled in out of nowhere and I watched as I walked down the paved path towards the street. Head slumped, hands in my pockets I watched as I walked into the mist and disappeared.

That image is still with me. When I’m feeling down these days it’s there to remind me that I’ve walked that path before. The image of a man watching himself walk away also inspired a story I wrote years ago. I wonder where that went.

When I was reading the Artists Way, Julia Cameron talked of refuelling the creative tank. She explained you can’t forever be taking from the tank and not refilling it and expect it to always be full.

As I writer, everything refills my tank. Images of water through the trees as the train spirits me home in the dark. Phantom laughter drifting across a quiet Sunday afternoon. Cold wind against hot skin.

Most of my creative fuel is in feelings. It’s strange when you consider how much effort I go to to bury my feelings beneath a layer of cynicism and a layer or two of concrete. One of the “lessons” I learned when I was going through the breakdown was to shut up about feelings.

It’s been 7 years since that night by the window. Good days and bad days since, all of them fodder for a creativity I keep clamped in place with a will of iron.

I wrote the other day, that my characters are positively smeared with my journey. I wrote how that light coating of sheer wonder makes allowing my writing to be read slight exposing.

I don’t like to admit that at times it feels like the tank has run dry. It hasn’t, not completely, but that’s how it feels. So I made a decision to all but wipe myself off social media for a while. I’ll still use Twitter, but instagram is gone & Facebook will follow.

Why I hear you ask? What did all those cute kitten pictures on Facebook ever do to you? What about the games you play?

It’s not that Facebook has done anything to me beyond become another tool with which I distract myself. Same with instagram. Twitter is also a distraction, just not as big as the others.

I spent Saturday under the house on Facebook and a half dozen other places doing nothing. I got up early, I wrote two blogs. Instead of capitalising on that I let myself go “job well done” and did nothing else. Yesterday I was in such a dark mood I watched Downton Abbey Season 3 for the escape.  (Sidenote: seriously love that show)

I commute 3 hours a day roughly. I spend the entire time flipping between Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.

I’ve decided to spend this week refuelling the creative tank. I shall read, or people watch, or as I have done today, I shall write on my iPad and see what happens by the end of the week.

I guess the point to this post parallels the post from yesterday in that I can no longer live on auto-pilot. I either live my life or allow my life to live me. Twitter, Facebook and the commute are auto-pilot behaviour.

If I had my way I’d post a blog everyday. I said that to myself the other day. I do have my way was the thought in response. Write or don’t. Give up booze or don’t. Exercise or don’t. Every decision I make in my life – when I make them – is my way.

I have the same time as everyone else & frankly I have a lot less demands on it than most people. I don’t have a relationship or social life. I simple exist.

So I shall have my way. I shall refuel and write and see where a weeks commute dedicated to not switching off takes me. Who knows what will spark the creative flame

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43 year old Australian writer currently working on the first of a planned three book Epic Fantasy series. When he's not writing policy discussions, or tales of swords, Gods, and magic, he can be found making a mess in the kitchen, and turning perfectly good ingredients into crimes against humanity.

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