“What are you doing today?” Curtis asked as I drove him to work.
“What are you doing tomorrow?” He asked again last night.
“What do you have going on this week?” He asked as I dropped him off at the airport.
“Nothing.” I replied. “Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I have absolutely not one single thing planned.”
He gave me a surprised look. Curtis never has nothing to do, nothing planned.
Most people don’t. Or rather, DO…all the time.
Even when we aren’t “doing” anything, we are doing something: Listening to music, Texting, Checking email, Facebook, Instagram, Playing Candy/Trivia Crush, Scrabble with Friends, etc. etc. Usually something electronic.
When I visit schools, I’ll chat with the kids about my writering life. Inevitably someone will ask:
“Where do your ideas come from?”
I often respond by opening it up to the class and asking them:
“Where can we get ideas?”
Eventually the flood of suggestions peters out . . . Because ideas do that.
Life, the everyday business of living, can be tiring. Trying to live creatively can be even more so. The myriad of How-to, Discovery, Recovery books and articles focused on ways to revive our creative spirits, suggest this tiredness, miasma, block, burnout, lack of creativity . . . . is because we are creatively exhausted. (And perhaps otherwise, too.)
Whether from lack of use, or because we’ve used up all we had, our creative tanks have run dry and need refilling.
Many, including Julia Cameron’s oft sited 12-Step Recovery guide, The Artist’s Way, recommend taking oneself on weekly Artist’s Dates as a way of “refilling our creative wells.”
Filling our wells—if we follow this sage advice—is easy. The question then is: How do we empty it?
How do we tap into those creative wells so those wonderful ideas can flow?
When working with school kids, at that point where the ideaphoria slows, I’ll ask:
“Does your teacher ever give an assignment and not one single idea pops into your head? Does that ever happen to you?”
A sea of nodding heads is always the answer I get.
At that point I’ll give them my sure fire Well-Draining Idea-Generator:
Empty your head and do nothing.
I dare you.
I double dog dare you.
Make a “Do Nothing” Date . . . and Don’t!
Don’t take your phone. Don’t plug in. Don’t bring a friend. Don’t set an agenda.
Before long, the spigot will open Whoosh! and ideas will begin to flow. Could be they already were flowing, but we just couldn't hear to catch them.* Either way, that plenty o’ nuttin’ starts to sound like something.
To borrow from Dr. Suess: Oh, The Thinks You Can Think!
Nuthin’ Doin’ Playlist:
- I’ve Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’ from Porgy and Bess
- Nothing from Nothing by Billy Preston
- Is It Love? Or Is It Magic, the Theme Song from Nanny and the Professor
*What's the worst that can happen? You'll have spent an idyll hour or two. (Ever ponder the connection between idyll, idle and ideal?)