Sunday, 14 August 2016

Escape from Normality – Filling Up Your Creative Well by Sophie Claire

We all know the benefits of travel – how it can fire the imagination, help you escape from normal life, give you precious time to slow down, unwind, and refresh the body and soul. But what if you can’t get away? What if you could use an injection of ideas in your writing life, but travelling just isn’t an option right now?

Summer is the perfect time for filling up the creative well with new experiences and sensations, but you don’t always need to go far to find inspiration. Here are some ideas for breathing new life into your writing, no passport required!

Take a notebook, treat this as a game or an adventure, indulge your senses, and – most importantly – get out of your comfort zone.  
1. Be transported!
Go to the bus or train station and travel to a place you’ve never visited before. It doesn’t have to be far – a small village, a big city, perhaps a part of town you’ve never been to. Public transport is always a great source of inspiration (all those people to watch, conversations to eavesdrop on). The story of Harry Potter was conceived on a train, after all!
Once you get to your destination, explore, and spend some time observing what’s around you. Note down your thoughts and descriptions. If you’re working on a book, ask yourself how would your protagonist react to this place? What kind of characters would live here? How might they feel about returning here in later life? Perhaps buy a small memento to remind you of the trip: a postcard, or some stationery (a writer can never have too much stationery). If you like visual prompts, take photographs.

2. Challenge yourself
Try a new activity. Have you ever been camping? Horse-riding? Ice-skating? Bird-watching? Enrol on a day’s photography course, or learn to make cupcakes! If the kids are off school, take them with you. Children are always keen to try new experiences, but we, as adults, tend to be more cautious and maybe don’t have as many opportunities. What’s on your bucket list? Pick one thing and do it!
Alternatively, you could take an existing hobby one step further. If you like knitting or painting or swimming, then how about setting yourself a challenge? You could train for a race, or join a class, or make and donate one of your crafty donations to a charity.
My husband and I love hill-walking, and one summer we decided we’d climb Mount Snowdon. It was much harder than I expected, but the sense of satisfaction was immense, and the views were amazing. Plus, we passed some inspiring characters along the way, including an elderly gentleman wearing nothing but swimming trunks and hiking boots!

3. Listen up!
Go to a music concert or festival. (If these are really not possible, buy a new CD or join Spotify, which is free). You know what I’m going to say: the more unfamiliar, the better. If you like pop, go to a classical performance; if you like rap, try listening to some jazz. 
Music can be a great vehicle for transporting the senses, and some writers devise soundtracks for each book they write. Fellow Novelista, Louise Marley, has blogged about how music inspires her writing here. Open your mind to a new type of music and, who knows, you may find yourself with a new story idea or a character with their own unique taste in music.

4. Escape!
Read a book or watch a film set in an exotic location. Let it transport you and submerge you in an unfamiliar setting. 
I remember one Christmas when my children were small and the weather was so bad we’d been trapped indoors for 2 weeks, I left them with my husband and went to the cinema to watch a Bollywood film. It was a temporary escape from normal life when foreign travel simply wasn’t an option!

5. Time Travel 

Historical novelists do this all the time, but we can all use history as inspiration. After all, history is peopled with characters, and characters are the basis of every story. Head for a local place of historical interest – it could be a stately home, a castle or a park. When you get there, take the guided tour. They’re great for bringing a place to life, and your aim is to feed your imagination. The more interesting the story, the more it will inspire you and hopefully set your own imagination going.
Take advantage of any unusual activities on offer: try archery, wear a suit of armour, fly a falcon. Leave time to soak up the general atmosphere of the place, the smells, the views. Then zoom in and focus on one small detail that you feel is typical of this place. It could be a gravestone, a piece of fabric, an acorn. Note down a description of it. When you get home, use this to spark a new piece of writing.

Even if you only manage to visit a new café to do an hour’s writing, that’s still a break from your usual routine. I hope you’ll be inspired and come home buzzing with fresh ideas.

Have you got any exciting plans this summer? I’d love to hear about them…



  1. Excellent suggestions! I like the idea of visiting somewhere new and discovering it.

  2. A wonderful, encouraging post, Sophie, to get up and do something different. I'm visiting both Bristol and Bath for the first time this weekend, so will take my notebook with me. : )


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