Back to Nature
Feel like you're stuck in a rut? Kali Anthony talks about how spending time communing with nature can supercharge your creativity and provide much needed inspiration
New projects are usually something that sparks my creativity. At the beginning of this year I had something teasing around the edges – a novella based in a small town. Not the sort of thing I usually write, but I find trying something outside the box poses an interesting challenge and gets me thinking. This time though, I had vague ideas which were about as solid as smoke. Worse still, they weren’t coalescing into anything solid that I could grab a hold of.
Work had been its usual (dis)organised chaos. Too much to do, too little time. Trying to get the kids sorted for the new school year, just added to the impost on my time. There was not a second to think creatively at all, my focus was on what I had to do. Certainly no time to think about something self-indulgent, like a story.
Around this time, my husband was trying to work out what to get me for my birthday. It was a significant birthday, so he wanted something memorable. Not more stuff, we had plenty of that. What he arranged, was a weekend away in the mountains. A three hour drive from my home town into a cabin on the edge of a National Park.
The place was QUIET, apart from the birds. They were everywhere. Views from our back deck, went for miles. Nights were pitch black, apart from a gazillion stars. During the day, wallabies dotted the landscape. There were hundreds. And yes, even for an Australian like me it’s still a joy to see them in the wild, since it’s a rare occurrence. Afternoons and mornings, parrots came to the house wanting to be hand fed. They’d squabble over seed and happily sit on you as they ate.
There was nothing to do but stop, and be still. We’d go for walks in the rainforest. Seeing no-one and hearing nothing but birdsong, wind in the treetops and flowing water from streams. There was no concrete or glass, just green as far as we could see.
Studies have shown that being in nature is vital for mental health, and regular forays into the natural world leave people feeling happier and healthier. In the UK, scientists asked a group of subjects to “do something wild” every day for thirty consecutive days. At the end of the study they confirmed the beneficial effects of spending time in nature. Even better, the feeling of well-being lasted for months after the study ended. Children who spent time in the natural world reported improved self-esteem. It didn’t have to be a trip away, either. Planting flowers for bees, feeding birds etc did as much good as a walk in the forest.
Something happened to me, up there in the mountains. The fog of all the “stuff” I had to do lifted, and ideas flowed. I didn’t only have enough for a novella, but five separate stories came to mind, with defined characters, a town name and complete history. It was as if the inspiration was planted in my head. Characters began talking at me, jostling for attention (for non-writerly people, this is PERFECTLY NORMAL and does not mean I am in the slightest bit crazy - well maybe a teesny-weensy bit crazy, but that's for you to judge!).
Now, whilst I’d like to think they will, these stories might never get written. What the experience showed me though, is that my imagination is always there. Sometimes it just sits locked behind a door. The key to opening that door, is getting away from it all and spending some time soaking up the joys of nature.
So, if you’re feeling stuck in a rut, head out to the country and go for a walk, dip your toes in the ocean, or maybe just sit and watch bees and butterflies in a garden somewhere. It might give you some creative ideas, but if not, who cares, you’ll still be better off for the experience!
Does spending time in nature recharge your creative batteries? Where is your favourite place to go? Tell us here, or on social media. We'd love to hear from you!