by Sue Heavenrich
Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I head outside. I tuck my camera in my pocket and tell myself that I’m just going out for a breath of fresh air. I might walk down my road, noticing how low the sun is in the sky, or the way snowflakes rest on dried rosehips.
I might wander around the yard, discovering brilliant green moss gardens. Or I’ll pull on my garden boots and head to the garden – which sometimes turns into a three-hour minivacation as I discover bees and flies, watch birds, notice buds opening. I’ve been known to turn a quick one-mile walk into an hour exploration.
|photo by Sue Heavenrich|
My excuse: being outside, in nature, is Good For Me. And there’s research to back it up. Time spent in nature – whether it’s a hiking trail or a patch of green in your backyard – can perk up your brain, decrease stress, make you happier, and increase your creativity.
Add in some exercise, and you’ve got a winning recipe for breaking through tiny creative blocks. Not only is walking good for your health, it stimulates creativity and improves one’s mood. According to a study at Stanford, people’s creative output increased 60 percent while walking.
I know that when I come back inside, I feel more creative. So I asked a few friends whether they took nature breaks.
They are essential, says snail scientist and writer, Marla Coppolino. “If I've been struggling to figure out how to write or draw something, the "a-ha" moments come when I step outside and meander through my field and connect with the grasses, insects, and whatever else I meet. It re-awakens the parts of my mind that solve problems. Maybe part of this just comes from relaxing, but I think it's more of the connection I feel.”
Illustrator, Annie Zygarowicz spends time watching clouds with her husband. “When we’re driving, we’ll pull over to observe and photograph the cloud formations, their color, density and texture.” Cloud photos and memories inspire their painting and poetry.
When author Kathy Halsey feels stuck, she heads out to a garden. “Being surrounded by growing things, the sounds of birds and the wind make feel hopeful and refreshed. My head clears. I feel relaxed, less stressed, and able to sit and work again.” Spending quiet time outdoors has renewed her interest in writing haiku, and she shares her Saturday haiku on twitter using the hashtag #HaikuSaturday. In turn, writing haiku has made her more observant of nature.
|photo by Leslie Colin Tribble|
One such walk resulted in a picture book. Strolling by a hayfield and watching the balers operate, Chris mused, “Storing summer in a bale…” Those thoughts grew into HEY, HEY, HAY! (A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make them)
Photographer and nature writer Leslie Colin Tribble finds that being outside is the best therapy for feeding the creative part of her life. “The act of movement while being outdoors sparks my mind into focus and clarity. Putting one foot in front of the other clears my thoughts and gives me greater vision about a project - allowing my mind to wander into the story I’m writing. Nature photography sharpens my perception, and I love stumbling across the perfect vignette of rock, lichen, wildflowers and soil that I can capture with my lens. Focusing on the small things in the immense landscape where I live reminds me that the tiniest detail is important in creative efforts.”
Later, when she looks back on her photos, she feels the sense of place all over again – bringing back physical and emotional details she can incorporate in a story.
So this week, head outside and see what you can discover. And if you are looking for some weekly nature breaks, check out my Wednesday posts at Archimedes Notebook.