Nov 20 2016

Nature Inspires the Imagination

For most of my life, nature has fueled my imagination.  When I am stuck inside for too long, I get cranky.   In school I angled for the seat near the window, and 365 nights a year I sleep next to an open window.  When I cannot be outside, I bring the outside in:  jars of sand, bowls of rocks, winter twigs arranged in a pitcher.
Therefore, it is no accident that when I write, the images that surface the most have a natural origin.  I may be writing about sadness, but its metaphor is a flower, or a pocket of a season.  And when I am jangled from stress or fatigue, soothing comes in the sound of water, a flock of pelicans skimming over the ocean, or the dance of falling leaves.

Now it turns out that what I have always believed to be true, that this essential communion with nature brings out my best writing, is backed by research.   A study conducted by the University of Kansas found that people who spent a few days immersed in a natural setting experienced a 50% boost in creativity.   Ruth Ann Atchley, chair of the psychology department at UK, says, “It’s when you have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works.”

We don’t all have the luxury of spending days on end in a natural environment, but even an afternoon sitting by a pond, or a morning walk in the woods can strike a spark in our creative selves.  And every oasis of peace that we find can feed the springs of our art.

Guest Blogger Ellen Collins is a writer and teacher who divides her time between Vienna, Virginia and Bethany Beach DE.  She is currently at work on a book of essays about living in the natural setting of the Delaware shore.


Comments on ... Nature Inspires the Imagination

  1. Cate Z says:

    I love this idea, as much as I love the cool, fresh air of the outdoors — no matter whether it’s in the middle of a metropolis or open spaces near the sea, a river or in the middle of farmland where the sounds of the far off middle-of-the night trains drift in through the window along with the moonlight…. ahhhhhh

    • Elizabeth says:

      Kate, I think your “ahhhh” sums up the sometimes wordless depths of response to Nature that we writers are then invited to translate into words.

  2. Nancy O says:

    You’ve all just named and expressed my rationale for staying put on my family farm, in my old, well-worn house. Also for my pushing through to write. Thank you! I recognize these feelings, and I regularly hear the vibration and rumble of a train passing through a small town about 6 miles south, sometimes sensing it before I realize exactly what that drone through the earth is. “Ahhh,” indeed.

    • Elizabeth says:

      That is the writer’s task, isn’t it? To name things? To make that ‘shock of recognition’ available to the reader? Thanks for reminding us, Nancy.