Sunday, August 21, 2016

Can't Pour from an Empty Cup

Recently I started thinking about the expression "You can't pour from an empty cup." Usually this wisdom refers to taking care of yourself before taking care of others, but I realized how much it applies to writing, too.

You know those days when the words don't come was easily as you want them to? When writing is more of a struggle than a pleasure? Check yourself: are you trying to pour from an empty cup? Are you lacking necessary inspiration?

Confession: this has been a kind of an empty-cup summer for me. I've battled low self-esteem and stress over some aspects of the business side of being a writer. I didn't do a good job of seeking out things that would inspire me as a writer. Even though I kept writing and working on various projects, I felt that emptiness. The words didn't pour like they had before, like I knew they could.

This month, I started filling my "writer cup" (which, let's be honest, is probably a coffee mug).

First, I attended Writer's Digest's Annual Conference. I could do an entire blog post about the conference, but for now, let's just say that three days of conference sessions and keynotes and being surrounded by fellow writers who share the same passions and dreams and goals? Pretty cup-filling.

While in NYC, I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time on Broadway. I'm a theater junkie anyway, but seeing a book I love come to life? Awesome.

Curious Incident... Stage
Two days after I got home from NYC, I went to a concert -- the Tour de Compadres with Mat Kearney and NEEDTOBREATHE. This concert had absolutely nothing to do with writing. It didn't make sense that it would fill my writer cup, but it did. You know Lin Manuel Miranda's "love is love is love" speech from the Tony's? In this case, art is art is art, music included. Cup filled.

Tour de Compadres 2016
Raleigh post-sunset
Today, I went to see Newsies for my third and final time before it stops touring. That one does have some writing tie-ins, but I was mostly in it for the dance and music, which will now be stuck in my head for weeks. I also spent some time wandering around Durham's beautiful American Tobacco Campus. It's one of those places I drive by often without really stopping to appreciate it.

American Tobacco Campus 
I never intended for all of these things to happen within the same ten-day period, but they did, and my cup is full. Overflowing. I've worked on edits and beat deadlines. I'm revising a project that has been stuck for a while. I'm blogging for the first time since May. While driving home from work the other day, I had to turn off the radio because it was distracting me from story ideas.

I'm pouring from a full cup and loving every minute of it.

If your writer cup is empty, do something to fill it back up.

Visit an indie bookstore for an author's reading and book signing.

Watch a movie, maybe one that you wouldn't normally pick.

Check out a museum for a couple of hours -- art, science, history, doesn't matter.

Go to a concert or listen to a new song. (Might I suggest one of these?)

Do something Instagram-worthy. (Or Snapchat-worthy? IDK, I'm old.)

Re-read a favorite book that's falling apart from being opened so many times.

Walk around somewhere beautiful.

Then pour your heart from the full cup onto the page.

I can't wait to read what you write.

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