Where do you find writing inspiration on a dull day?

Writing InspirationFrom Devon last month to Cumbria this month and the beauty of the Lake District.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Wordsworth was inspired by the beauty of the Lakes, from the serene fells overlooking Grasmere to the tumbling Aira Force Waterfall in Ullswater.

Walking the fells (even in the pouring rain) does wonders to revive the spirits and stir the senses. You feel as though you could climb mountains and conquer the world... until you have to go back home to reality.

My holiday is now over, and I’m back in Farnborough. And it’s raining, again. So where do you find inspiration on a dull day?

If your brain is really not working, there’s no point in chaining yourself to your desk. Rain or shine, it’s time to leave your laptop and see what’s going on in the great outdoors. Here are a few of my inspiring distractions.

Nature – from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter, writers of all kinds have been moved by nature. Take a walk in the park and watch birds build nests or ants carry objects ten times their size. Nature gives you a sense of your place in the world and your minor status in the great scheme of things.

Gardening – weeding the beds or digging a new plot, nothing clears a foggy brain like a hefty dose of manual labour. Then there’s the mental challenge of deciding which plants to grow where. Planning a garden is a highly creative process (and growing from seed gives you a sense of accomplishment).

Sport – taking part or watching. How could anyone have failed to have been inspired by the sports women and men taking part in this year’s Olympics and Paralympics? The sheer dedication and focus of these athletes certainly moved me to get off my backside and try that little bit harder to complete some projects I’ve found especially difficult.

Exercise – For me, it’s swimming and walking, for others it’s running, abseiling or bungee jumping. Whatever form it takes, there’s nothing like exercise for getting the heart pumping and the brain racing.

I’ll never be an Olympic athlete. I’ll probably never even be a decent swimmer. It doesn’t stop me from heading to the pool three times a week and pootling up and down fifty times in the slow lane. I find the rhythm of exercise provides a unique environment for me to think, form ideas and come to decisions in a stress-free way.

If going out isn’t an option...

Today, my garden is underwater, and local roads are flooded. I’m prowling around the house to see what’s on offer.

Books – the bookshelf is obviously the first port of call. Pick a book at random off the shelf and see where it opens. Poetry, Shakespeare or Curries Made Easy - a few paragraphs of practically any book, even Rail Routes in Hampshire & East Dorset sets my thoughts chugging off on a new track.

Music – I was listening to Bobbie Gentry the other day (not exactly finger on the pulse of modern music, I know) and songs such as Fancy and Ode to Billie Joe are perfect little stories with a sense of place and dialogue. I’m in awe of songwriters who conjure up vivid portraits and tell intimate stories using so few words.

Drawing – Now my drawing skills are so bad that when I drew a plan of my vegetable plot I had to write the word carrots underneath the orange triangles with green tops in order to recognise what they were.

I don’t let this complete lack of artistic talent hold me back. Even if you haven’t done it for years, give drawing a go. You’ll be surprised at how differently the brain works when conjuring up images on a sketch pad rather than a laptop. I’ve created both fiction short stories and non-fiction articles in pictures before typing them up.

Mind Mapping – If you find the thought of sketching or painting a bit too daunting, or random, have a go at mind mapping. A mind map is a diagram that starts from a centre point and flows out into branches of information and ideas.

It was mind mapping that inspired me to sketch for the first time since leaving school after a friend gave me a drawing pad and pencils and a book by Tony Buzan. Simplistically put, the visual and non-linear aspect of mind maps draws on a different hemisphere of the brain to the one used for reading left to right and top to bottom.

And finally, if all this sounds a bit too much like hard work, there’s always vin rouge. Enough said.