Filling Your Artist’s Cup

Nikita Andester

The following is a guest post by Nikita Andester, whose creative short story “Such a Peachappeared in issue 21 of Typehouse Literary Magazine.

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Recently, a photographer friend of mine said he’d quit chasing success; for him, it was all about fulfillment. This declaration hit me like a gut punch – not only because he was the most successful creative I knew. It was that, as straightforward as prioritizing fulfillment was, I’d never even considered measuring my life like that.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d said. Not long after, I shifted my career entirely to focus on fiction and started emphasizing my own quest towards fulfillment. Nowadays, I keep my eyes trained on what Julia Cameron calls your “artist’s cup.” Filling your artist’s cup means letting go of the need to generate “output” – at least for now.

As artists, we’re bombarded with questions about what we’re busy crafting. If you’re not making, the logic goes, then you’re not an artist.

But just like how you’d never take a road trip without topping off the tank, you can’t create without topping off your own creative reservoir. As writers, the best thing we can do for our craft sometimes is shut the laptop, ignore that pulsing cursor, and rediscover the power of play.

By making the mundane captivating, we’re inviting ourselves to rediscover why life is worth writing about in the first place. Refilling your cup means doing the little things. Looking at that button collection of yours or strolling through a cemetery can work magic on your creativity. 

Once, I went on a walk and counted bumblebees, losing track somewhere around forty. It was a mesmerizing way to spend a half hour, and I never saw that stretch of my street the same way again. Like hard candies tucked into your cheek, those moments become your secret to savor – not for social media or an art project or growing your career, but because the best way to get inspiration is by living.

If you’re so busy you forget to breathe, let alone play, remember: playtime can happen anytime. Traffic? Prime opportunity to practice dance moves. Dishes? No better time to throw back with Backstreet Boys and sing/yell your heart out. 

As a society, we’re pressured to always focus on advancing our career – or at least getting rich. But if every heartbeat is given over to the symphony of our career, how can we stop to enjoy the popcorn at life’s intermission? Often, the best part of a show is the quiet moment when we’re washing our hands, alone, digesting what we’ve just witnessed. Filling your artist’s cup grants you those moments for your own life, too.

Tom Robbins put it best: it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. So what the hell – reread that manga from high school. Try that hairstyle you found on Tiktok. You’re more than someone who makes art; you are art – and hot damn, it’s time you acted like it.  And as you fill your artist’s cup, you may just realize you’re creating more art than you ever have before.

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Nikita Andester (she/they) is a writer, musician, and visual artist who lives in Portland, Oregon and has their MA in Professional Creative Writing from the University of Denver. Raised in the deep south, Nikita’s writing draws on her past lives as a farmer, waitress, ESL teacher, and farmers’ market maven to uncover the magic lurking in the lives of working-class characters. Nikita’s creative work can be found in Wild Musette Journal of Music, Mystery, and Myth; Argot Magazine; and Typehouse Literary Magazine. Twitter: @nikitaiswriting Website: www.nikitaandester.com

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