Tag Archives: owls

Writing Energy Renewed

Writing energyRecently, I learned some things about my writing energy which seemed to have reached an all time low.

They surprised me. So I thought that some other writers might find my experience helpful. Or at least interesting,

writing energy magic, book, bluebell wood

As many readers know, I sometimes go off into the countryside as a Birdwatcher’s Companion. He’s a great chap to walk the hills with, knowledgeable and generous when I ask about plants and wildlife

But he’s also happy for me to go off into my own little fantasy world, if that’s where the mood takes me.

I really love going into sometimes quite Writing Energy early morning walkremote and even lonely places. For there is always the Back-Up Person with the Binoculars, on hand in case I fall down a rabbit hole.

No matter how tired I am when we start, it seems that I always come back with my writing energy renewed and a spring in my step. 

Writing Energy Lost

Writing Energy exhaustedWell, a few weeks ago we went off to look at owls in Finland. We’d booked it ages ago. But life had thrown me a couple of sucker punches in the spring and I was still reeling. In particular my writing had gone stale and then virtually ground to a halt. Sometimes I almost couldn’t bear to read what I’d typed the day before.

So on this trip, I was more than tired. I was drained.

Writing Energy Stirs

Writing Energy Finnish forestThe first morning we went out into the forest with our guides and fellow bird-watchers… and almost at once, I felt as if I was beginning to come out of a trance.

Why?

Well, I think at this stage it was partly because I had to watch my step. Quite literally. Otherwise I would have fallen into a ditch. Focused the mind wonderfully, that did.

Writing energy Lichen in forestAlso, this landscape was very strange to me, with a winter-white sky and trees like feathered masts of great invisible ships. The branches were full of the most delicate, lacy lichen. The air felt different, as if it was moving around me, busy with plant life, and small creatures. I was irrelevant, a watcher only.

And, just like that, my perspective shifted. It  was like a shot of adrenaline.

Forest Bathing?

Writing Energy, Eurasian pygmy owlLater – it was after dinner that first day, the sky was, briefly,  a summer blue and we were waiting in the hopes of seeing a pygmy owl – I had a go at explaining it to Guide Aragorn.

“Like Forest Bathing,” he said. He didn’t sound enthusiastic.

I had vaguely heard of forest bathing. Shinrin-yoku is a nature therapy invented in Japan were it is much practised by burned-out city types. Anyway, I nodded.

But since I’ve been home, I’ve looked it up and I think I should probably have repudiated the suggestion with word and deed.

Writing Energy, hugging a treeThe Guardian has a very cheery piece about it.

A San Francisco group go into the woods and  examine their every reaction to the natural world in minute detail, They end up passing a maraca from hand to hand and Affirming their enhanced wellbeing. The author is aware only of “creeping unease”.

Confirmed tree-hugger though I am, I’d have been right with him, there. (Read it. It’s a hoot.)

Writing Energy from Listening, Watching, Waiting

Writing Energy, Eurasian pygmy owlActually that evening’s wait for the Eurasion pygmy owl is a really good example of the difference. We weren’t concentrating on ourselves. We probably were superbly  grounded and even holistically calm. A keen observer might have noticed it. We were wholly concentrated on the owl, bless its snubbed little beak.

Aragorn took us to the place where one had been sighted. He broadcast a call. We stood and scanned the trees very, very carefully, in near silence. Nothing stirred. I thought I heard a distant cry that might have been a response but was too unconfident to say so. We waited some more. Nobody was impatient. We didn’t speak much.

And then something came in over the tree line. And yes, that was definitely the right soprano call. (This is apparently Europe’s smallest owl. Think an avian choirboy with freckles.) It sat on the very top of a pine and looked about it. In the scope it was – well – charming. Not something a birdwatcher would say. But by now I had reconnected with my imagination and, for me, it was definitely charming.

It called a lot. “Is that a territorial ‘keep off’ or a lonely hearts ‘wanna date’?” I asked Aragorn. He grinned. “Both. Like us.” The man was a realist.

It stayed for ages. I watched it with the naked eye, then binoculars and finally through one of the three scopes in our party. The birders and guides made sure that I had a good lug of scope time. That’s how I found the owl’s beak was like Just William‘s snub nose.

Each way of looking showed me something different. It was a revelation.

I had to concentrate, of course. But it was out of sheer fascination and delight. There was no horrible wheel in my head going “I must concentrate; I must concentrate” as there had been for months when I tried to write. If anyone had asked me how I felt watching the bird, I’d have said, “Lucky. Very, very lucky.”

Writing Energy from Surprise

Of course, you can’t absolutely count on birds to come, even when you send out alluring calls they will recognise. But with a knowledgeable guide, you’ve got a more than fifty-fifty chance. But sometimes you get the gift of something you neither called nor expected. Suddenly it’s just there.

Writing energy, muskratI had so many on this trip, I can’t count. But the Birdwatcher took photographs of two,

First: the muskrat. We were standing on a wooden observation platform. Suddenly the lake rippled and there he was swimming strongly, busy and otter-like. We saw him for only a few seconds. I wanted to wave my arms above my head in sympathy.

Second: the erratic. I had never heard of such a thing before.

Glacial erratics are bits of rock in the wrong place. They have been dumped there by the movement of prehistoric ice and are indicators of glacial routes. This one, as you see, has great character. Could well have auditioned for Frozen. (No, I didn’t say that.)

Writing Energy Renewed

Writing energy, happy writerSince our return, I’ve been steadily catching up with stuff, some of it long overdue. This is in spite of the fact that I am (still) wrestling with the fallout from those sucker punches.

Above all, I’ve been writing happily. And, I think, rather well. It’s flowing anyway, and I can’t wait to get back to my story in the morning. I’ve even got two projects on the go at the moment, and I’m having fun with both, in their different ways. Oh perspective, welcome back. How I love you!

Writing Energy, forest in rainIn fact, I’ve demonstrated that recalling my forest experience actually brings down my blood pressure. My doctor takes it three times during a consultation. So I imagined myself back in the forest, rain drops pattering on my hood, for that last take. I could even feel myself smiling.

And my blood pressure fell by 40 points. Doctor laughed like a drain.

Reasons for Writing Energy Revival?

Writing energy, rocks in a riverSo what I think this trip has done for my creativity is:

  • got me out of my head, with all those anxieties and self-blame, into acceptance of the way the cards fall
  • showed me how to change perspective and recognise that each view is valuable
  • reminded me that concentration is a way of being, not a task you do
  • taken me back to experiencing the moment, instead of thinking about what to do next
  • shown me new stuff
  • reminded me that fresh air, trees and water are a joy

So my advice is, if you’re struggling with writing, see if you can spend some hours outside looking, listening, waiting and concentrating on what is immediately in front of you. You might even take a Birdwatcher. Good luck!

Sophie Weston Author

Sophie

For the Love of Owls

owls,. Little owlFirst you should know: I love owls. When I was at college, I lived for a time in a cottage opposite a field. We had a visiting Little Owl. I first encountered it when I came home at dusk to find Something sitting on the stone wall that surrounded our garden. I thought a child had dropped a stuffed toy and I reached to retrieve it. Until it OPENED ITS EYES.

It was a Little Owl. And they are really small, as you see. 1.5 bricks tall, max. But the message was direct, unmistakeable and compelling: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

I’ve been a huge fan of owls ever since. Continue reading