Refilling the Well

Refilling the well.

We hear this so often as writers but what does that mean? Does it mean napping for days on end, ignoring any story idea that pops to mind? Or does it mean slacking off on a deadline, watching twenty hours worth of your latest TV binge-worthy series? Or maybe it means avoiding social media for a month, ignoring friends’ posts, blogs and any and all forms of digital connection.

For some it can mean any or all of the above. For others, the thought of disconnecting for even an hour sends chills.

So what’s the answer?

I suspect, like most things, one size does not fit all. Rather, refilling the well is as individual an exercise as the act of creation.

Regardless of how you choose to fill the well, the reality is that we all need to do so. I just purchased tickets to a Josh Groban concert that’s almost three months away and I can already envision clearing my schedule that day, focused on the joy of hanging with friends and screaming my cougar head off (cuz when it comes to JG, sadly the 8 years difference makes me most decidedly a cougar).

Clearing the mind and finding time to enjoy life – not to mention living it – is a key weapon in the writer’s arsenal. How can we write about life’s experiences if we never go out and have any of them? And how can we motivate ourselves to create if we never have the joy of experiencing the world we’re writing about?

Refilling the well is essential. And if it’s an evening of good old-fashioned oogling or twelve episodes of Scandal back-to-back, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that you step away from the computer, put some distance between you and your work, and get out and enjoy yourself.

Your work in progress will thank you.

Happy Writing!



42 Responses to “Refilling the Well”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Today all the teachers in my district were back to work (classes start Wednesday) and I already ache all over. Granted, I had to switch classrooms and moved about 500 books solo. For me tonight, refilling the well meant watching America’s Funniest Home Videos with my family (and a dram of whiskey in my hand). That was just to let my body recover.

    But I did do lots of more serious well re-filling this summer: swimming in the ocean, reading lots of books, spending time staring at the sky. Hopefully once I’m re-adjusted to the demands of teaching, I’ll be able to reach into that well and get some serious writing done.

    • Addison Fox says:


      Sounds like an absolutely wonderful summer! Incredibly refreshing and lovely!

      Wishing you a wonderful new school year!


    • June Love says:

      Elisa, I hope you have a great school year! Good for you for celebrating the summer with fun and travel.

  2. Gwyn says:

    For me, refilling the well means interacting—usually with other writers. Yes, sometimes just getting out and away from the daily grind helps, but nothing erases the void quite like gal-pals who understand the man you’re currently ready to eviserate, while fictional, deserves his comeuppance! Or that your heroine keeps jogging down the Too-Stupid-To-Live trail despite numerous Keep Out and No Trespassing signs. I find the sharing, commiseration, and cheerleading buckets essential to replenishing what the work has sucked away.

    • Addison Fox says:


      i couldn’t agree more. I’m always refreshed after a conversation with fellow writers. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts of RWA and the local chapter structure. That monthly meeting offers such a wonderful chance to refresh and refocus.


  3. Jeannie says:

    I’ve been scrambling to meet a deadline forever it seems, with life and day job on top of it. I finally turned in the manuscript last week. Last night, we were watching the game and I dozed off with my head in hubby’s lap. I woke up at one point and looked up at him. “We haven’t this in a while,” I said. It was nice.

    For now, refilling the well for me is not trying to stay up past midnight getting things done and letting myself do the small things.

    • Addison Fox says:

      Jeannie –

      Congrats on turning on that manuscript!!! I wish you some good sleep :-)


  4. I like saddling up my horse and going for a ride. It always clears my head and leaves me keen to go back and write some more. Watching one or two episodes of Hell on Wheels works too!

  5. Jenn! says:

    At this point in my career, refilling the well would entail getting caught up. I fell most most refreshed when projects are done (and the house is clean, the kids are taken care of, bills are paid). Then I can begin the excitement of starting something new.

    Also, I look forward to going to the beach. Not just for the relaxation and the family fun, but I also get lots of work done, too. Being near the waves just does something to me. :-)

    • Addison Fox says:


      You’re so right about the water. There’s something in the waves and the embrace of the ocean that’s soothing, inspiring, life-affirming…it’s all so positive.


  6. Hope Ramsay says:

    When the well is really dry I spend the weekend in bed with the kitty dozing beside me, and a book. Often one I’ve read before.

    As it happens, I spent last Sunday in bed re-reading one of my old favorites — Thomasina: The Cat Who Thought She Was God. I had forgotten that this book has a beautiful love story in it between a witch and a lonely widower. And, more deeply, it’s a wonderful story of forgiveness that I don’t think I truly appreciated when I read it as a child. Re-reading this 1950s YA story reminded me of all the things I love about magic realism. It was just the medicine I needed.

  7. June Love says:

    Addison, this is a great post, and, thought provoking because it can mean so many different things. For the past few years, I haven’t been under a strenuous writing schedule (as in, barely writing), so refilling the well hasn’t been needed in that respect. I’m only now setting a weekly writing schedule/goal for myself, in which I have scheduled two days off a week, if I meet my goal within the five days.

    Now, if I go back, waaaay back, to a time when I was writing at 4:30 in the morning before the day job started, then writing on Saturday and Sunday, I refilled the well by taking two weeks off at Christmas from my day job and from writing. The week before Christmas gave me time to unwind and prepare for the onslaught of family. At night, I would watch tv or read. The week after Christmas, I spent my days reading. One book after the other. As many as I could read in that week. It was fun, relaxing, and memorable.

    I think I’ll try to do that again this year. :-)

    • Addison Fox says:


      I LOVE reading binges!!!! They feel so decadent! :-)

      I’ve found my reading has fallen off a bit since I’m back in the routine of a day job and writing with a car commute. When I was living in New York I had my subway time back and forth to work and I really miss it!


  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    Such an important reminder, Addison. I try to keep the well filled as a way of life, to not let it deplete to a point where I notice it needs refilling – not that I’m always successful. ;-) I read for pleasure every day, during a hot bubble bath. I also take the occasional day or weekend away from my WIP, and give my brain a rest. This weekend, I’m spending some time with college friends at a lake cabin in northern MN, where I will try my best not to drop Nalini Singh’s latest in the lake.

    • Addison Fox says:


      That sounds absolutely wonderful!!!!! Enjoy the weekend and enjoy Nalini! :-)


  9. Kate Parker says:

    I’m one who needs to refill the well every night. During the day I deal with writing and the rest of my life. At night, it’s TV and books. I recently found a couple of new (to me) authors that I love, and a couple of really strange summer TV series.

    • Addison Fox says:


      Sounds like a wonderful rhythm, actually! And do share the new authors who you’re loving – would love to add them to my TBR!


  10. Maggie Kelley says:


    Essential stuff.

    This summer I’ve spent each morning watching Quick Pitch on ESPN with my little guys wrapped around me. Nothing in the world beats being with them.

    I also love to travel when possible, dinner w/friends,tarot cards. Writing to deadline is a new world, a major trek on the learning curve and it is important to enjoy the process and life along the way.

    Thanks for the lovely reminder.

    • Addison Fox says:


      Baseball with the little ones sounds absolutely wonderful!! Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is ALWAYS inspiring (not to mention a ton of fun!)


  11. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I read to fill the well.

    Actually, I sometimes think that *writing* is really what fills the well. I have a day job, and I have my youngest child to usher from the nest. Writing is one of the least stressful things I do–so sometimes I just do that. It can’t be a book under deadline or blurbs or blog postings. Those feel like pressure. But that idea that’s been tickling at the corner of my brain? Yeah, that’s fun.

    • Addison Fox says:

      I do know what you mean on this – writing is often my well refiller when the rest of my life gets crazy. I’m happy when I write and it often helps ease the craziness of other aspects of life.


  12. Rita Henuber says:

    Reading, sitting by the pool and veging, walking the beach. Watching the hummingbirds this week has been fun. Sitting on the dock and watching the sun is such a pleasure.

  13. What a timely post for me to read. I’ve been working almost non-stop for six months (and produced two manuscripts) but the effort has left be so completely depleted that I’ve spent three full days re-filling. For me that’s lots of music, time with family, going back to yoga class, and taking the time to fill out all those school forms so my kids can start back on time. :)

    Thanks for the gentle reminder. :)

    • Addison Fox says:

      While I’m incredibly delighted there are two more EE books finding their way into the world, I’m so glad you have had a few days to recharge!


  14. I refilled my well by taking a nap with my toddler today! I know that’s not that you mean, but for me, it is. My well is dry when I’m exhausted.

    • Addison Fox says:

      Actually, Jamie, it’s exactly what I mean! We all refill and refresh in different ways. A nap with the little guy sounds like it did the trick!


  15. Kim Law says:

    So so true. Must refill. I’m finding that if I refill in small amounts throughout the writing of a book, then it’s not so bad at the end of it. Meaning, I don’t necessarily have to sit and watch a full season of Justified in one sitting. Just 3 or 4 episodes will do ;)

    But I am trying to do more refilling along the way these days. Making reading a priority helps. As does forcing myself to leave the house, having time out with the girls or the husband, watching movies, my favorite shows, and sometimes doing things like stripping the wallpaper from the bathroom or cleaning the house. Ugh. How boring. But all those things let my mind just “be” so it’s not constantly trying to “perform” and then I can more easily get back to it.

    I also nap.


    • Addison Fox says:

      Love it, Kim!

      And don’t underestimate the power of housecleaning. I always joke my house is cleanest the week before my deadline. There’s always a mighty powerful urge to get up and vaccuum on deadline….have NO idea why! :-)


  16. Addison, your post makes me giddy just thinking about refilling the well. I’ve been incredibly burned out these past two months, trying to make deadlines while incorporating the kids’ summer fun into our family life. It’s been difficult to juggle. With the kids in school and my deadline (Thursday) almost met, I’m incredibly excited. I plan to refill my well with a lunch out with my husband (complete with margaritas!) and a funny movie. And then I hope to dive into my next project! :D

    • Addison Fox says:

      Oooh – margaritas!!!

      There’s not much in this world more theraputic than a margarita….drinking it with hubby only makes it that much better! :-)


  17. Liz Talley says:

    Great post, Addison :)

    For me, reading fills the well. Nothing better than escaping with a good book, so I try every night, even when I’m working like a madwoman, to fill my mind with someone else’s story.

    I’m also fond of getting a massage and going to the lake without my computer. Fishing off the pier restores my balance and sets me at true peace…and if I have wine in hand, all the better!

    • Addison Fox says:

      It’s funny – reading has been such a common theme for all of us. I think it’s a true testament to how much we love the written word – either writing it or reading it – it matters to all of us.


  18. For me, refilling the well is anything that gets me excited about putting pen to paper. I loved, loved, loved Kristan Higgin’s Keynote speech at RWA. Here is the link for those who missed it. It was amazing and definitely did the trick. :)

  19. Very good point, Addison. We all need time away from work.

  20. Cate Rowan says:

    This post was a timely reminder to this stressed-out author. Thank you, Addison!

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