A friend in my graduate program told me very simply that you need to input to output. So when I’m feeling depleted, I have a process I follow. I write down the things I’ve been watching and reading, and any events I’ve been to in the past few months. Pretty much 100% of the time I see that I’ve been staying in, working, rewatching things I’ve already seen, and reading comfort books (to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with any of those things!).
Then I make an active plan to input. I have a list of “hard” books (nonfiction topics I don’t know much about, older books like “Catch-22” I never read in school, things that are challenging) that I choose a title from, I watch older movies I’ve somehow never seen…and I try to go see theater or comedy shows outside my normal sphere. I meet people for coffee to hear about their work…
After a few weeks of that, I start to have ideas again. I incubate them, start writing, stop taking in as much as I’m outputting, and then keep doing that until the cycle repeats itself. My life got a lot better a few years ago when I recognized this is as a cycle rather than feeling like I would never have ideas again and it was absolutely out of my control to ever coax them back. It also helps me take pressure off myself during times of ill physical or mental or emotional health to know that it’s just part of the cycle and I can let up for a bit and just input for a while without feeling guilty.
I think this is fantastic advice for anyone who works in their head a lot, or who creates either for fun or for money. I’ve been feeling burnt out and like everything is the same and…yeah, I’ve been sewing the same pattern for three months, I haven’t seen my friends in about that long because of Omicron, I don’t even try to watch new things. I’ll be trying this out.