Taking care of your inner hamster

Drawing a Blank

Your writer’s muse is undependable. You’ve got deadlines? The muse is outta there; you’re on your own. Mine lets the door slam behind her on the way out as she calls “Bye, Felicia!” over her well-groomed shoulder as she takes off to enjoy herself while I work.

I’m a copywriter. Deadlines are my daily norm, and I need a source of creativity on which I can rely. I call that source of creativity my little hamster Hortense. When the muse abandons me, Hortense is the one who helps uncover the creative gems that get the job done. She’s not in it for the glamour; she’s there because we have a job to do and we’re in it together.

You, too, have an inner source of creativity.

Take care of it, it’ll take care of you.

This source is precious but easily taken for granted. When your inner source (for simplicity’s sake, let’s call it a hamster) cranks out ideas and you don’t take it seriously, your hamster is likely to quit, deadline or no deadline.

Write it down now, not later.

“I’ll write it down later.” Nope, doesn’t work. When you go to write it down later, you’ll probably just get frustrated because you forgot what could have been a brilliant idea. Instead, make a note when inspiration strikes.

Trust your notebook, not your memory.

“I’ll remember it if it’s worth remember.” You don’t know if it’s “worth remembering” yet. You’re already halfway to calling it crap.

I don’t like being shut down before I get a chance, neither does your inner hamster. Call enough ideas crap, your hamster will go on strike — just like you do when your internal editor keeps correcting you.

Stay curious, not furious.

“I have to learn everything—now!” Writers are curious. Many of us (myself included; skip is this isn’t you) over-focus on trying to learn as much as we can as fast as we can when we’re hot on a new topic.

Cramming information down your inner hamster’s throat makes it more likely to lose its natural curiosity. 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.

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

Appreciate where you are right now.

“Write! Be brilliant! Now! 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.

Walk your inner hamster.

“I’m too busy to go outside. Okay, so I just don’t wanna.” Your inner hamster needs to be walked every day—and so do you. Clear your head. Get the blood flowing. Most importantly, it stretches her mental muscles with external stimuli and new experiences— the stuff creativity is made of. And take care of the body in which you and your inner hamster live.

You are not too busy. You have five or ten minutes to step away from your keyboard a few times a day. Take ’em.

Feed your hamster the good fuel.

“No apple. Chocolate. And get me some potato chips while you’re up, would ya?”

I can tell when I’ve had too much caffeine, or I haven’t eaten right. I get cranky. Can’t focus. When I drink water and eat my fruits and veggies, I function so much better. Same goes for getting enough sleep.

If you’re not getting adequate nutrition, neither is your inner hamster. And your creativity will lose its edge.

Replace some of your guilt-inducing fun food with something your doctor won’t tsk tsk you for. Then watch what happens with your creativity. Your hamster will feel it, and so will you.

Hortense, my creative powerhouse

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.

2 thoughts on “Taking care of your inner hamster”

  1. You are so right about writing things down right away and not relying on memory! The other night, I had this idea in my head and I kept trying to convince myself that I would remember it in the morning, but I couldn’t sleep until I finally wrote it down. Then when I woke up, I couldn’t remember what it was–thank goodness it was in my notes!

    1. Same. I never remember when I wake up. Or when I’m done driving and actually have a moment to write anything down. 😉

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