The Care and Feeding of Your Inner Hamster

Ring, ring! Who’s there? Destiny?
I’ve been expecting your call.
Rhino the Hamster, Bolt (2008)

Hortense, my inner hamster

Hortense, my creative powerhouse

Inside my head, there lives a little hamster. Her name? Hortense. What does she do? She’s the source of my creativity.

When I woke up this morning, Hortense was tearing it up on her hamster wheel. Churning out ideas faster than a rainbow churns out Skittles.

Confident that she had things well in hand, I went about my morning tasks without writing down the creative gems that she was doling out. And when I finally sat down to write, my mind went blank. So I turned to Hortense for help. And she ignored me.

Why? Because instead of taking care of her, I’d been taking her for granted.
I figured that those ideas would be there when I got around to them.

I was wrong.

It doesn’t take much to take the edge off of your creativity. Even if you’re not sold on the idea of having an inner hamster, do any of these sound familiar?

I’ll write it down later.

Actually you’ll probably just get frustrated because you forgot what could have been a brilliant idea. Instead, make a note when inspiration strikes. Even if it’s garbage. It just takes a moment.

I’ll remember it if it’s worth remembering.

Not only will you most likely forget, you’re basically calling the rest of your ideas crap. And if you call enough ideas crap, your hamster will go on strike — just like you do when your internal editor keeps correcting you.

I have to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can.
About everything.
Right now!

If you’re always cramming information down your inner hamster’s throat, it’s going to lose its natural curiosity. Which means you won’t retain as much. And when it’s time for new ideas, your inner hamster won’t know where to start because the poor little thing’s been inundated with so much new data.

Result? A creative funk that’s hard to climb out of.

Instead, take a breather. Learn, absorb, do. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Write! Now!
Be brilliant! Now!

No, that’s not good enough!
What’s wrong with you?!

Who responds well to a taskmaster? Your inner hamster, your creativity, that voice that makes you the writer you are — they’re more delicate than you think. Even the Hoover Dam will break under too much pressure. Ease up a little. Be gentle.

I’m too busy to go outside.
Okay, so I just don’t wanna.

Hortense needs to be walked every day. It clears her head. Gets the blood flowing. Most importantly, it stretches her mental muscles with external stimuli and new experiences— the stuff creativity is made of. You have five or ten minutes. Take ’em.

No apple. More chocolate.
And get me some potato chips while you’re up, would ya?

Last week (planned experiment) I drank nothing but soda. I was cranky and couldn’t focus. This week, I’ve been drinking water. And I think more clearly. And all I changed was my soda to water ratio.

Now, I’m not telling you to morph into a health nut (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But if you’re not getting the nutrition you need, neither is your inner hamster. And your creativity will lose its edge.

Replace some of your guilt-inducing fun food with something the doctor won’t tsk tsk you for. See what happens.

I have to be productive.
Every. Waking. MOMENT!

I call shenanigans on this junk. Shenanigans, I say! You can’t keep going on and on and on and on and on and on and on (even this sentence is exhausting) and on and on and on and on. Neither can your inner hamster.

Yes, some people thrive on a fast feed of constant productivity. But rarely do they focus on one thing all the time. Those who do often burn out. So take five minutes, a day, a week: relax, recharge your batteries.

When I take care of Hortense, she takes care of me. But even if you don’t subscribe to the theory of having an inner hamster, you have a wellspring of creativity. It’s up to you to maintain it.

How do you take care of your inner hamster? And if you don’t have a hamster, how do you take care of your creativity? Share in the comments.

Photo credit: This drawing of Hortense is a Rubber Ducky original. Powered by Hortense.

13 thoughts on “The Care and Feeding of Your Inner Hamster

  1. I love this analogy! Which came first? The idea of the hamster analogy or hortense? LOL

    I learned the hard way to take care of my inner hamster after forgetting too many ideas. I usually keep my little notepad and purple pen around in the event of impromptu ideas. My problem is figuring out what to do when ideas come to me in the shower – so many of them do. Can’t bring my pen and pad in there! I’ve actually been meaning to get shower crayons to fix that little problem.

    • So glad you like it! Hortense definitely came first. She’s been my go-to hammy for years.

      And yes, I try to keep a notebook on me as often as possible. I also like to let her “wander” and just see what she comes up with. She’s sparked some of the best ideas that way. (Focus is sometimes highly overrated.)

  2. I love Hortense! But since I share my office with several cats, that probably wouldn’t work out! I especially appreciated the gem: “If you’re always cramming information down your inner hamster’s throat, it’s going to lose its natural curiosity. Which means you won’t retain as much. And when it’s time for new ideas, your inner hamster won’t know where to start because the poor little thing’s been inundated with so much new data.

    Result? A creative funk that’s hard to climb out of.”

    You know how to hit all my buttons! Carry on!

    • Hi Shari – good to hear! (Um…that you liked the post, not about the impossible hamster/cat cohabitation.) 🙂

      And it’s true. We’re inundated with so much information that we — and our inner hamsters — can get stuck before we know it. And trying to be creative feels more like trying to be zen while sitting in the middle of the the Las Vegas Strip. Too much going on.

      Been there. And I’ll forever be apologizing to Hortense for it.

  3. I’m a big fan of your work, Erica. This line in particular made me laugh: “Churning out ideas faster than a rainbow churns out Skittles.”

    I loved the way your inner hamster was chowing down on a chocolate bar.

    • Hi Savannah — welcome to Rubber Ducky Copywriter!

      Yeah, Hortense and I like our chocolate. We’ll trade soda for water, but we’ll never give up our Hershey bars.

      Thank you so much for the kind words. You really just made my day. 🙂

      • Hi Erica! Thanks for the warm welcome.

        You sound like me. I gave up soda a few months ago and started drinking more water. But I can’t seem to let go of my chocolate bar addiction.

  4. I really enjoyed how you went about this topic. Great post. I almost always have a notepad. I jot things down as soon as I can. One the most brilliant writers I know. Dr. Dennis Hensley (link on my pages – Author sites) often speaks on organization and one of the points he always makes is writing things down. He says no matter how smart you are juggling 20 things you have to do in your mind keeps it busy. Once you write them down, you free it up to think of other things. I’ve met Dr. Hensley twice and he is a phenomenal speaker too. Lists work for me. I loved the Skittles comment too, quite original.

    • Hi Peter, thanks for the compliment! And the tip on the link to Dr. Hensley’s website. Will definitely have to check that out. Yes, without lists, I’d forget my own name. Must…make…a…list! 🙂

  5. I learned who you were on Peter Bowerman’s site, when you made a list of certain “nots.” Been a fan of yours since. This inner hamster idea fits! If I’ve actually left the house without a pad of paper (rarely happens, thankfully), I’ll use the notes section on my phone (an old slide-keyboard thing) OR on the edge of a bill or even on my hand! Gotta write it down NOW.

    • Hi Kendra — Welcome to Rubber Ducky Copywriter!

      Sounds like you’re pretty good at keeping your inner hamster happy. And I’m pretty sure she appreciates it. I’ve found myself writing on napkins or making a rhyme out of it.

      Nice to meet you! 🙂

      • Yeah, napkins, the back of grocery store receipts, stray envelopes, box flaps or the sides of boxes, even pages out of coloring books,

  6. Pingback: Warning: Highly trained hamster | iwantmarbles

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