3 approaches to filling the creative well

As artists and humans, we all know the importance of filling the creative well in order to stay engaged with our work and sustain our practice.

We’ve all heard the metaphors – put your oxygen mask on first, you can’t pour from an empty cup, etc.

In fact maybe we’ve seen or heard them so often they’ve rather lost meaning or impact.

We know that while energy naturally ebbs and flows, letting too much drain out without refilling can lead to losing connection with our art in one way or another.

And yet how many of us still aren’t doing it, or are just paying lip service to the idea and not actually integrating it into our lives?

And then finding ourselves more often than not tired, uninspired, unmotivated, full of excuses, and feeling stuck and frustrated?

In fact doing the exact opposite of filling the creative well, and beating ourselves up about it for good measure!

{I’ve never done this of course, I just hear it’s a thing. πŸ˜‰}

If you have any experience of mental or physical illness {hi, fellow humanπŸ™‹πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ}, you’ll know that both can often be a symptom of an empty well, and can end up sustaining it – and themselves – in a vicious cycle.

I experienced depression for about two decades, and it was a very effective means of both revealing my empty well – from loss of connection to self and values – and keeping it empty through apathy and shut down.

Easy to see in hindsight, of course.

But the beautiful thing about creative well filling is that it not only has long term benefits in all sorts of ways; it’s also actually fun and pleasurable to fill it!

{And if it’s not, I’d suggest reassessing your current well filling activities!}

You literally can’t lose by doing it.πŸ’ͺ

I mean, when you look at it that way, what are you waiting for?!

The Daily Criteria

For many years now I’ve filled my own well {creative and otherwise – it’s all the same really} using a little system I created called The Daily Criteria.

It’s a list of six things that, if I incorporate them into every day, lead to my well if not overflowing, at least topped up.

It never drains completely dry, but if I’m feeling depleted, uninspired, or stuck, I can check my list and find which of the six criteria I haven’t been giving enough attention to.

My criteria are very simple and very flexible:

  • Connection
  • Pleasure
  • Make Something
  • Help Someone
  • Get Outdoors/Into Nature
  • Tai Chi

Several can overlap or double up too.

For example, if I do my Tai Chi in the garden, that can be enough to cover Outdoors and Tai Chi. If the sun’s out and the birds are singing, it contributes to Pleasure too.

When all those criteria are filled, the day feels rich and satisfying.

They also cater to the Three Big Ones:

Body, Mind, and Spirit

And, important to note, this is not ‘another thing on my to do list’.

It’s partly in how you frame it to yourself, and also partly about integrating these things so they become a normal part of your day, not a checklist of what can quickly become chores.

I don’t need to check my list very often these days because I’ve built in most of the criteria, meaning most get automatically ‘ticked off’ during the day as that’s how I’ve created my life.

I know that you know how to fill your own well. You know what makes you feel good.

But sometimes the usual things don’t work, or you just feel restless and irritable and stuck, and can’t pinpoint what you need.

So I’ve compiled three lists as reminders, with options under the three areas.

Some are very specific, some are specific to me, and some are more general.

They’re not rocket science, but I’ve thrown in some ideas you may not have tried yet.

You could create your own Daily Criteria from them, or just add one to your current well filling process. Of course some will overlap – two or three for the price of one!

Pick and mix as needed!


  • Tai Chi/ Qi Gong – an energy practice can be transformative {in a very slow way!}
  • Yoga – pretty much covers everything
  • Dance – classes with a friend, or just getting on down in the living room {or studio!} now and then
  • Walking – solvitur ambulando {‘It is solved by walking.’} This is in my top three most effective faves.
  • Just being outdoors – especially if you can get into nature, breathe some clean air, watch some birds, walk on grass, smell the greenness, maybe gather some finds for inspiration
  • Stretching periodically
  • The One Song Dance – ie. play a song you love, dance for its duration
  • Comfort/Ease – warmth, support for your back, work where it’s comfortable if you can
  • Sleep/RestΒ – Are you getting enough? Do you need support to sleep better? {I like the Soundscapes and Sleepcasts on the Headspace app.}
  • Food – nourishment, energy
  • Hugs – human or animal
  • Body treatment – a massage, a manicure, physiotherapy, whatever makes you feel cared for and relaxed


  • Books – read about your favourite subjects and those you know nothing about. I like to go to the library, pull out books that catch my eye, then sit on the floor in a corner and read for a while. Or download Kindle samples of books that look interesting on Amazon. {Then maybe buy them somewhere else. πŸ˜‰ Or get them from the library.}
  • Podcasts – any topic, not just art related ones. Type your interest into your podcast app {or Google} and find a wealth of options to try.
  • Blogs – ask friends, find creatives on social media through people you follow, write your own!
  • Journalling – so many ways to do this! Keep it simple with gratitude lists, or write about your day, or make notes on things you learn, or look up journalling questions online.
  • Conversation – a bit of chitchat for basic human connection, or the kind that feels nourishing or fascinating for deeper satisfaction
  • Play Wordle or Spelling Bee, or do the crossword
  • Write poems or Haiku {perhaps inspired by a walk in nature}
  • Learn something new – take a workshop, find a library book, look something up on the internet, watch a YouTube video, or just learn one new word


  • Silence – perhaps combined with being in nature {my personal fave}
  • Solitude – even just a few minutes to breathe and go inside yourself to touch base during a busy day
  • Creating slowly and with intention – cook a meal, wrap a present, make a playlist
  • Doing Nothing/Percolating – underestimated and incredibly filling
  • Noticing beauty – especially the kind you only see when you slow down, like raindrops sparkling on a spider web, or the way your dog crosses his paws
  • Prayer – whether religious or otherwise
  • Laughter – a cup of tea with a fun friend, a comedy show on Netflix, listening to back to back episodes of The Unbelievable Truth {something I enjoyed recently}
  • Meditation – or simply sitting and listening to the quiet for a few minutes
  • A change of scene – visit somewhere local you’ve never been, try a new walk, a different route home, a new shop. {I sometimes find looking at houses on RightMove for a while refreshes me in a similar way!}
  • Meandering – mentally {goes well with silence and solitude} or physically {goes well with nature}
  • Have a reading of some kind, eg. Astrology, for a fresh perspective/reassurance/bit of fun
  • Or a healing session – eg. Reiki


Of course there are infinite other options, but hopefully these spark something for you.

I find the more specific and unique-to-you you can make something, the more you will get from it and the easier it is to integrate it as a part of your everyday life.

You’ll notice I didn’t suggest ‘making art’ {although of course that’s allowed!}.

Sometimes filling the creative well is more about filling yourSELF, rather than gathering specific inspiration or making your art in any kind of literal way.

And then when your creative well is overflowing, or at least fuller, the desire and the motivation and the energy will be there to support and sustain you when you’re ready to get in the studio.

What would you add? Do you have your own Daily Criteria?