This is possibly the most common question a writer hears.
I’m going to risk the fury of a mob and admit I’ve never had trouble finding inspiration. So many story ideas are crammed in my cache that I may never get time to write them all. Yet that doesn’t stop me from seeking new ideas wherever I go.
Last week I read a blog post by an aspiring author, who was wondering about the best way to find inspiration. As it so happens, I recently had a wild experience in inspiration. The event that triggered it: a visit to a nature preserve, during which I nearly drowned in a flood of story ideas.
Since I’m still a scientist in some respects, I did a little scientific research (via Google). Here are three possible reasons why my walk to the nature preserve produced such a wealth of ideas.
1. Many studies show that exercise stimulates the brain, causing us to think more clearly. So just the process of walking there could have warmed up my brain and prepped it for creativity.
2. According to research done by Dr. Tomatis, high frequency sounds stimulate the brain and help it reach its maximum potential. “High frequency sounds include natural sounds such as bird song, running water, wind, frogs, and insects, as well as classical music. Low frequency sounds, such as the hum from electrical appliances and vehicles, has the opposite effect, draining our energy levels.” I heard wind, insects, and bird songs at the preserve.
3. I couldn’t find a scientific study on the effects of nature on the brain, but I did find an article on how nature affects the body. Here’s an excerpt: “Staying connected to the natural world will relax your body, free your mind, and restore a sense of balance and perspective. The earth’s bounty is infinitely healing and calming. Spending time in nature soothes an overexcited nervous system, and it remains the one universal cure for stress and despair.” It goes on to quote Anne Frank: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes people happy, amidst the simple beauty of Nature.”
So was the walk to the preserve responsible for my big ideas? The sounds upon arriving? The connection to nature? A combination of all three?
But here’s the catch. That was my second visit to the nature preserve when I received all the story ideas; the first time there I received zero inspiration. All factors were the same for both visits—exercise, sounds, and nature. So why the difference in results? Where’s the science to back this theory? I cannot find an explanation . . . and that in itself is rather exciting. I love science, but not as much as I love the mysterious.
So to answer the aspiring author: there is no one way to find inspiration. It finds you, perhaps when you least expect it. The best you can do is carry a pen and paper with you at all times, or keep repeating the idea in your head until you get home! Be open to inspiration at all times and in all places. You never know when it will whack you upside the head.