Kerr Thomson: 5 tips for using nature to inspire your writing

The most important thing a writer needs is a good imagination. It is where stories are born, and from these imaginings writers craft tales of wonder and adventure. But something needs to spark that imagination, to get it going like a steam train puffing slowly from the station. That spark is what we call inspiration. You can find inspiration almost anywhere but one place where it is almost guaranteed to occur, is in nature. Here then are five top tips for finding inspiration in nature.

In every tree and bird and hill and insect and river and raincloud, there are countless stories waiting to be told.

Take a wander into the wild

A dark forest, a windswept mountaintop or a lonely beach would be great - but these places are not always easy to reach (and perhaps a little bit dangerous as well!). Your wild place might be a local park, the trees at the edge of the playground, even the bottom of your garden just as the sky is darkening. Just find a piece of nature and go there.

Leave digital distractions behind

Turn your phone to silent and put it in a deep pocket. Spend an hour without swiping. Lift your head and take in the world around you. Breathe deeply and smell the earth. Listen keenly; hear a bird call, a tree sway in the wind, the gurgle of a stream. When you write describe the smell, depict the sound - this will help transport the reader to this new world. With your words they will not only see it, but hear it and breathe it as well.

Take a friend with you and be explorers

Hike to the top of a hill and as you climb, share stories of what might be on the other side. Expect the unexpected. Find the wonder in the world that surrounds you. Be ready to be surprised and remember the feeling.

Watch out for wildlife

An acrobatic squirrel, a hovering kestrel, a buzzing bee, maybe even a badger at dusk or the glimpse of a deer. Remember this is not a nature ramble. You are seeking writing inspiration, not undertaking a biological survey. In your head tell a tale for each animal you see and give them a name. Mole, Toad, Ratty and Badger have already been claimed!

Bring back a souvenir

Something that will spark a memory and return you to that wild place, time and time again. It might be an impossibly patterned pebble, a flawless seashell, a strangely-shaped stick, an autumn leaf the colour of the setting sun. A small item to sit by your writing pad or laptop, ready to be occasionally touched or smelled or gazed upon. Think about how the object came into being. Think of the journey it has taken to reach your palm. Imagine who else has held such a beautiful object and how they came to lose it. The stories will come tumbling out, stories that only you can write.

Nature will always inspire writing. Wild places will always inspire the writer, because in every tree and bird and hill and insect and river and raincloud, there are countless stories waiting to be told. They are out there, desperate to be found. Go seek a few.

The Rise of Wolves by Kerr Thomson is out now, priced £6.99.

If you're a young writer, check out our blog series of top tips from authors across the country!

Kerr Thomson

Kerr Thomson is the author of The Sound of Whales, the winner of the 2014 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition and previous Waterstones Scottish Children’s Book of the Month.
After studying geography at universities in Glasgow and Arkansas, Kerr worked at various jobs in various places including hospitals, sports centres and country parks, but eventually could resist no longer and entered the teaching profession, which is something of a family business. He has taught in several schools in Manchester and the west of Scotland.
He enjoys cycling and runs an occasional half-marathon. In every place and at every time he has always written stories.