29 Mar

Creative Wells and Buckets of Satisfaction

Banner - LightI can’t code and write.

I can code well enough, and I can write well enough. But I can’t do it on the same day. Coding and writing fill up the same creative well in my mind.

It doesn’t really matter if I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, or whether I’m coding JavaScript or Visual Basic, or any other language. If I code I get the same creative kicks that I get out of writing.

So while the languages and ways of thinking are different, there is this space in my head that says “Alright, I’ve written today!” that gets filled up by coding. I simply don’t feel a burning need to write after I’ve written some code.

I have no idea why this is but a clue is that coding is creative problem solving. As is writing.

When I write I’m telling myself a story, I’m looking a little bit ahead, and writing down what I see. When I code, I’m also looking a little bit ahead, imagining a particular function or a particular equation and what it will do and then writing it down. It’s very satisfying, but after a few hours of intense coding, I need to recuperate in the same way as I need after writing.

Strangely, coding does not require the same energy as writing.

I can code when I’m low, or surly, times where writing feels like a chore. So it doesn’t draw upon the same source of energy. Because I can write when I’m tired or hungry, times at which I can’t code.

This leads me to a conclusion. There aren’t just wells of energy that we use throughout the day. There are also buckets of satisfaction that you fill up. And once your bucket of satisfaction is full you don’t feel the need to do more of it.

It’s like generating electricity from a difference in potential. For example, a body of water that is higher than another which you then run through a turbine to get energy. You can also generate the will to write, either by overfilling your well, your creative energies, or by emptying your bucket.

I can fill my well by reading plenty of stories and being well rested and being happy. But if I’m not that I can generate the same amount of energy, the same amount of willingness to write, by increasing the size of my bucket of satisfaction.

There are lots of things that go into making a bucket of satisfaction. One of them is drive,  the willingness to accomplish something. Another is pride, or desire, or that feeling of familiarity that comes when you have accomplished something before, and would like to repeat it.

Another one is habit.

If you have a habit of writing, then not writing will leave you unfulfilled. For me it feels like I’ve forgotten something. Because my bucket of satisfaction is empty.

And strengthening that habit makes my bucket of satisfaction bigger. Which keeps me writing even though my well of creative energy has run dry. And that, over time, gives me a much higher boost to my finished work than any amount of resting or inspiration.

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