4×4 Sources of Writing Inspiration: Unpopulated Places
Following on from yesterday’s post concerning the populated places in which I find writing inspiration, this post addresses the unpopulated places that get my synapses firing. Whereas yesterday, I was focusing on how people can inspire through their snippets of shared narrative, either spoken or unspoken, today I want to show how places themselves help me to become inspired through introspection. They help me to tune out all the hubbub, the voices, the demands, the deadlines, and they help me to listen to that inner voice which sometimes gets ignored.
Now, instead of giving you actual locations that I find particularly inspiring (although I’ll give you those as well!) I thought that I’d give you more generalized settings so that they can be applicable to a wider range of readers, rather than just those from the Scottish central belt!
OK, so here are my top unpopulated places where I find inspiration:
I just love to walk along the shore, listening to the water as it rushes and retreats with foam and fizz. The rhythmic quality of the waves coupled with the sand between my toes centres me in a way that I find very difficult to describe. The wide horizon of where sea meets sky raises the possibility that anything I can conceive of is indeed possible. With no visual barriers in front of me, I can begin to broaden my perception, and I can look at the bigger picture. The other thing that I just adore about visiting the beach is beachcombing. In a post back in February, The Wonder of Shells, I wrote:
There is something just so magical about strolling along the strand line, hoping for that serendipitous find. Because you never really know what you’re going to find as you work your way through the detritus washed up on the shore.
That fantastic element of beachcombing is that the connections you make between what has been washed ashore can often seem completely random, but later appear to be a part of some larger thought. Like clues scrawled in the sand, these connections can lead us to greater and grander visions. Anyway, here are a few of my favourite beaches in Scotland: Tantallon, Ceannabeinne, Balnakeil, Sanna Sands, and Yellowcraigs.
There’s just something so energising about being this close to a waterfall. The sheer power of the water as it moves from one place to another, pushing past obstacle, wearing down rock, carrying leaves, branches, stones and silt from higher up, makes me feel powerful in its presence. I feel like there is nothing that can prevent me from moving along the course I have decided upon. Any kind of writer’s block that may be holding up my progress, becomes as insubstantial as a leaf caught in the torrent of my creativity. Some of my favourite waterfalls are: the Alva Falls, the Falls of Shin, and the Bracklinn Falls.
When I find myself deep in the woods, I can’t help but reflect upon the passage of time. The trees towering above my head, give me a sense of my own impermanance. The brevity of life, the inevitability of change, the enormity of history are all brought home to me as I walk amongst these broad trunked inhabitants of the forest. I explored this in more detail in my post Long Walk Big Thoughts, in which I wrote that:
Some of these trees began their lives in a time when my great grandparents played carefree games of hopscotch and skipping, their young limbs moving with the graceful ease of youth. These trees are still reaching for the sky, while my great grandparents only exist as fond memories recounted to my children by their great grandparents.
I suppose, in a sense, the woodlands make me look outward by giving me the impetus to look within. I am inspired to explore time, history and my own position within it. Standing beside these old old trees, the distance between me and my ancestors becomes shortened; I am closer to my roots.
As you may have noticed, 3 out of my 4 top unpopulated places for writing inspiration are closely linked to water. I don’t find this in the least surprising, as I often feel inspired when beside water. What I do find surprising, however, is that different types of water incite different types of inspiration. In the case of the beach, it was the rhythm of the waves and the infinite horizon that helped me to centre myself and lull my thought processes into contemplation. The waterfalls bring out something far more dynamic through the sheer force of the water rushing past and down. Lochs, or lakes as they are called in other countries, have a different effect again. The large body of water, enclosed by steep sided mountains, or gently rolling, green hillsides act as a pool for collection and recollection. It’s a place where I can go and find my words, and bring them home again to place upon the page. It’s a place where I can find my reflection, and in so doing, find myself. A small sample of my favourite lochs are: Loch Shin, Loch Clash, Loch Lubnaig, Loch Marree, Loch Awe, Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Loch Achray.
What are your favourite unpopulated places for writing inspiration? Do you find your words when atop the summit of a mountain? Or do you find them while striding out across moorland? Maybe you find inspiration when the normally populated places are empty, such as the shopping mall just moments before closing time, or the concert hall pre-gig? I’d love to hear what works best for you, so do leave a comment. Oh, and make sure you come back tomorrow, when I’ll be posting about what virtual places give me inspiration.
PS This post is the 2nd in a series of 4 posts that I’m writing as a contribution towards Joanna’s group writing project. If you fancy joining in, check out her rules and prize here.