by Jessica Harrington
As writers, we spend a lot of time with our heads buried in books, journals and legal pads or with our faces hidden behind computer screens. Whether we’re furiously writing or staring at blank pages waiting to turn thought into written word, we are forever tethered to our work. I cannot count all the sunny days I have spent huddled over a desk, with pillars of books, newspaper clippings, and notes to myself, all circling my laptop. I feel guilty wasting these summer days inside, so I move myself and my things into the fresh air- but find I am still glued to whatever thought or inspiration was taking over my life inside. True, it feels good to have the sun warming my face or a light breeze keeping me cool, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am not living in the moment. Engaged in re-telling or lost in a world I have created- I am not taking advantage of the here and now for material.
The first time I realized how much time I invest in what has already unfolded, it made me sad. I started adding up the hours I have spent with the glare of my computer screen as my only light and the experiences I have passed on because of a deadline I had to meet. Then, after a Ben and Jerry binge, I decided I would take this sad fact and use it as a reminder to live. That may sound silly, even cliché, but it is also true.
As writers, we need to focus as much on living as we do on writing. We need to reignite our curiosity by putting ourselves in new situations with new people and surroundings. We also need to reconnect with the source of inspiration by revisiting the places we have always loved. Instead of taking the usual route and retreating into solitude to write, try taking a trip where you immerse yourself in the people, cultures, and senses of the world around you. Below is my suggestions for inspiration and connection- I hope it sparks the bug of adventure in you.
1. Get Lost in Nature
This may seem obvious, but I know how important time outside is for me. Too often we walk or hike, but mentally we are somewhere else. So, when you take the time to get lost in nature, focus on the living world around you. Explore new hiking trails, forests, and beaches. Discover new plant, insect, and animal life. Sit down to watch, listen, and touch all that surrounds you. It might take you back to a simpler time of life, before deadlines and bills.
Ideally, we would all love to travel. Each of us dreams of strolling through quaint European towns, relaxing on white sand beaches in exotic locales, or diving off the private deck of our thatch-roofed hut over the ocean in the Maldives. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the money- or time- to afford such luxuries, but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the excitement of travel! Plan a weekend or day trip with some friends, or play tourist in your own town- you’d be surprised how much is in your backyard.
3. See Live Music
Whether it’s a local band, an arena headliner, or a weekend festival- nothing is as moving as live music. Music is poetry- the rhythm and beats of the band, the story told in the lyrics, it’s all beautiful. Music evokes every emotion- happiness, sadness, anger, love- it would be a shame to not partake in the experience. Plus, you’re guaranteed to find a character or three in the crowd.
4. Get Your Heart Racing
Fear, anxiety, anticipation – these are emotions we usually try to avoid, but I think it’s good to get the adrenaline pumping. If you’re really brave, try skydiving or bungee jumping. If that’s too adventurous for your blood, try a thrill ride (think Great America or Six Flags) or find a zip-line.
5. Do Something New
Ask yourself, “What have I always wanted to try? What experience can I gift myself? What do I want to learn?” Compile a list and start crossing them off; now is the only time.
We hope this list kick-starts your summer of inspiration and re-connection, and leads to new characters, a stronger link with the essence of life, and richer world perspective. If you have fail proof methods to reignite creativity and reconnect with story, feel free to share. And, if you try any of the above suggestions, let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear your stories of summer flings, risks, adventures, and life!