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Landscape as Muse : Page 2 of 2

Landscape as Muse

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When you run out of ideas, there's more room in your head for new ones! Emptied out, clean and hungry, seeking your Muses, you can achieve a receptive and fertile creative state without even realizing it. You can write about what's around you, or go searching far and wide for inspiration. A simple change of pace — or place — can inspire you. Try writing in a whole new place — your favorite bar or bookstore, in a library or a laundromat, in a gallery, a park, or your own backyard. Focus through distraction. Eavesdrop. Look around surreptitiously, and begin.

Try to get down as many concrete details about your surroundings as possible. The sights, sounds, and smells of a coffeeshop in your journal can serve as the basis for a scene in your next novel, or provide a background for a poem. The subject of a painting, drawing, or other art project may emerge from your first "verbal sketches." Describe the silly students behind the counter, the old man in the back booth playing chess by himself, Miles Davis and melancholy on the radio.

I like to bring a little notebook or sketchpad — something tiny enough to fit in a pocket or purse — everywhere I go. You never know where inspiration may strike next — it's like lightning, here and then gone... and... what was it again??? Another tip: always, always, always bring a backup pen! For want of a decent pen, the idea was lost — and The Muse ever favors the prepared.

You can use found objects gleaned from your travels to create a collage or sculpture, or other forms of visual art, such as a creative journal entry combining your own words and artwork with subway tokens, recipes, postcards, movie ticket stubs, and the fortunes from fortune cookies. Go wild! This will give your journal a unique flavor and a distinctive style, both personal and meaningful. For more ideas on using landscape or place as a Muse, please see my July Juicy Journals and Wild Words article, "On Assignment in Ouray, Colorado," a Creativity Portal exclusive... or visit Cynthia Morris's website,, for some creative tools every traveler should keep on hand.

No matter where you are — at home in bed, on a plane to Bangkok, or bellydancing in Cairo, you can allow the Muse of a place to enter your work, inspire you, and take your writing and art in new, unexpected directions.

Postcards, stamps, maps and other mementos from a trip can serve as inspiration for a story or poem. Try writing a short story or the first chapter of a novel with a place — a house, lake, mountain, or even a city as one of the main characters. For excellent examples of an "active landscape" in contemporary literature, please see Blackbird House, or most any other work of fiction by Alice Hoffman, Cherry and The Liars' Club, by Mary Karr, or Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell. In very different ways, these authors portray their settings as more than a mere backdrop for events. They jump off the page and take on a life of their own.

Feeling blocked, stuck, or bored with it all? Get out of your rut and out of the house. Go for a walk and collect interesting rocks, words, sticks, flowers. Say hello to a new dog in the neighborhood. Wander among the trees until you have lost all sense, all language. Then listen to what the forest is whispering to you, and be amazed. Write it all down. Don't wait for the Muse to come and find you... sometimes you must go seeking for that which you hope to find. I invite you to color outside of the lines ON PURPOSE, do everything you ever dared to dream, and... don't just think outside the box... live outside the box! It's gorgeous out here — come outside and play! •

© 2008 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

Molly Anderson-Childers is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado. More »