Nature as a Writer’s Muse

This is a guest post by author Kim Hastings

I am a four-time published novelist and the author of The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken, which is the signature work of my career. When I'm not writing I'm spending time with my wife Jeri. Between the two of us, we have five children and seven grandchildren that we spoil. We love to travel and made the research for The Greatest Road Trip a part of every vacation we have taken for about five years. When not on the road we call the Seattle-area (specifically, Lakewood, Washington) home. From here we watch over the family and root on the San Francisco Giants and the Oregon Ducks. I hope you enjoy The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken. It was a labor of love and a book designed to bring us together in these troubled times.

Writers live an interesting kind of life. We are a window on the world, and yet too often isolate ourselves from it. We live a lonely existence, often writing about a world with which we have little contact. A writer who doesn’t freshen the pump with human interaction can experience a staleness of purpose. The blank page stares in what can seem like defiance.

“I dare you. Try to say something interesting. Anything? You got nothing.”

(Perhaps my computer is more combative than yours, but you get the point.)

But, what if no one is around? Is the pump water destined to be stale? Not at all, because Nature herself is beckoning to you. She can be the source of comfort, inspiration, and the recharge a writer needs to return to the task at hand. She only needs a little cooperation from you to do her magic.

First, step outside and take a deep and cleansing breath. Not the short breaths you’ve grown used to taking inside, but the kind of a deep breath that expands your chest and draws new oxygen into the system. Blow it out. Breathe deeply again. Then set out on your restorative hike.

Where you go doesn’t matter. THAT you go is all that does matter. Open your eyes to the world around you. Open your ears to the sounds that you don’t bother to notice.

Hear the traffic? Give yourself a moment to wonder where they are all going. Are they going to the beach for the weekend? To the mountains? To or from work? I wonder what they do at work. Are any of them up to no good?

Step away from the traffic and listen to the different bird calls. I hear a couple of sparrows and the deeper chirp of a robin. Isn’t this the nesting season? Raising our young from birth to adulthood is a wonder of joy and fraught with sadness, both at once. I wonder if the birds ever wish they hadn’t hatched eggs. Probably not, but the cycle of avian life can inspire a writer. Or, take it another direction. Do you like eggs?

Turn another corner and listen for some water. Count yourself as blessed if you are lucky enough to live near an ocean because the constant renewal of the sea is fodder for all kinds of writing. Some of literature’s great adventure stories come from mankind’s relationship with the ocean. Have you ever wanted to run off and become a pirate? Can’t you almost see the unfurled sails?

The ocean can also inspire the mystery writer in us all. “There are her shoes, but she is nowhere to be found. The crashing surf punctuated the pounding of his heart…”

But you don’t need to live within 1,000 miles of an ocean to be inspired by water. A rushing stream or mountain lake can be just as inspiring. Nature writers have taken their inspiration from high mountain lakes and the flora and fauna that live on its shores. Did you know that rhododendrons grow wild near coastal lakes, but only the red ones? Maybe, a character in your writing can only thrive in one place.

No water to be found? That’s okay because a lack of water can be an important plot point. The desert has co-starred in many works of fiction and non-fiction. The desert in bloom is an inspiring sight, overcoming harsh environs to create a splash of color on a desert canvas. Is a character in your story overcoming great odds to survive and even thrive. Waris Dirie and Cathleen Miller wrote a book called Desert Flower. It was about overcoming great odds but is sure not the only idea out there with the blooming desert as inspiration.

A dry desert that is not in bloom is an inspiration, as well. Stark desolation brings a story to mind. If the empty desert looks like sweet solace to you, there’s your hook. How many books have been written about folks finding themselves while alone? Quite a few, but the world awaits yours.

Is it time to go home? Probably, because your mind is full of ideas. As you see your home come into view allow it to sing harmony to nature’s melody within you. Coming home again is one of literature’s great themes. Is someone inside the house glad to see your character come home? If not, why not? There’s an entire series of books awaiting your touch and all of them thematically about coming home.

There’s your desk. Share your thoughts.

Subscribe to our book recommendations