Friday, June 03, 2011

Fill the Well Friday: Get Outside

PHS editor and Historical author Michelle Styles looks how being outside can jump start your creativity.

A writer’s life is one where you are chained to a keyboard and often surrounded by four walls and roof. I know people can grab notebooks and other devices and work anywhere, but this post is not about work. This post is about leaving the keyboard behind and getting outside to jump start your creativity. It can feel odd to go out without any sort of writing implement but you need to trust that the ideas will be there when you come back.

It does not matter really the sort of weather, as long as you are dressed appropriately and are not taking stupid risks.

What you do outside, depends on you and your mood. Walking is a tried and trusted way of jump starting the muse. Dickens and Kipling both used to walk miles. You can either walk in your own neighbourhood or drive to a local wood, historical site or nature reserve. The seashore can be a great place to walk, particularly during a storm. AA Milne called it going down to the shouting sea. It is about noticing nature around you and clearing your mind. A jog can accomplish the same thing but it depends on how intense you want to be and some of it is about taking the time to notice and free up your brain.

Going to a local park and going on the swings can help.  It means freeing yourself to play like a child and take pleasure in simple things. I was never any good at the bars, but I always enjoyed swinging and I used to tell myself stories. There is just something about swinging up in the air and then down. It is all about having fun.

You can go horseback riding, particularly trail riding. Most stables can cater for any ability. No experience necessary. It is exercise but it also gets you outside.

Gardening  can also work. If you are stuck, pulling weeds, particularly stubborn ones, can really work. Shouting and swearing as you struggle to pull the nettle from the ground or tumble backwards as the bramble gives way can be therapeutic.  After you are finished with the patch, you have something to show for it. If you decide to grow vegetables or fruit, you can have the satisfaction of eating the produce at a later date. Many vegetables and fruit are surprisingly easy to grow and can be grown in pots as well as in a traditional veg patch.  An hour spent planting up a lettuce bowl can really free your mind and replenish the well.

So the next time, you find yourself frustrated, down tools and get outside. When you go back, the problem is often solved or at least you have new insight. Does anyone else have any good outdoor activities to jumpstart creativity?

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical. Her next book To Marry A Matchmaker is out in the UK in July 2011. You can read more about Michelle’s books on her website


  1. Mowing the grass - we have a lot, so we have a garden tractor. The hour spent going around and around doesn't take a lot of concentration, lol, and you have a tidy lawn and the smell of fresh cut grass at the end. Of course then there's the push mowing to tidy up the hard-to-get spots and the "back 40" as we call it - a stretch that's too rough to mow with the tractor. Between the two it's a good couple of hours of work and usually serves to work out the kinks in my head.

  2. Walking the dogs is my way of getting outside. It's great for "what if?" musings. Caroline x

  3. I recharge by working in my garden patch. I can spend hours there if it's not too cold, too windy, or too hot. Not just planting and weeding, but also designing. Building raised beds, filling half barrels, making a trellis from an old wooden ladder to support grapes. Every year it's different. This year I'm making a fountain from old galvanized pails and kettles. I let my mind wander wherever it wants to go when I'm in the garden.