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.


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


25 thoughts on “Writing Energy Renewed

  1. Sophie Post author

    Thank you, Maggie. Well, it worked for me, anyway. Out of the blue, too!

  2. Sophie Post author

    It just came to me, Jan. And it felt right. So glad you like the post.

  3. Elizabeth Bailey

    This is so interesting. We spend so much time glued to screens now. Getting out and looking at the world again helps you breathe, I think. Not so much inspiration as aspiration, if that’s the right word. Or inhalation? Looking out rather than in, getting out of our own heads. Great advice for us all.

    1. Sophie Post author

      Glad you enjoyed it, Liz. Cautious about offering advice, though. This is just one case study. Not sure it would work for everyone. But the forest and the birds have certainly bounced me out of some very, VERY bad habits. Long may I continue bounced!

  4. Susan Alison

    What a great article. I was smiling all the way through. It had everything, including Aragorn, a charming owl, and a happy ending. Thank you.

  5. Rosemary Gemmell

    What an inspiring post, Sophie – thanks for sharing your experience and the lovely photos. Completely agree about getting out in nature and out of our own heads – it’s also filling (or restocking) our well of creativity.

    1. Sophie Post author

      Thank you Rosemary. I should have said that the lovely photos are by the Birdwatcher in my life. Should have credited him before! Sorry.

      I agree with you. The nitty gritty of this one seems to be getting out of our own heads.

  6. Louise Allen

    So glad it was so helpful – and although you can’t just nip out of the front door into a Finnish forest if the energy-ebb happens again, at least now you know to seek out the equivalent

    1. Sophie Post author

      I have to admit that I would not lightly undertake that journey again, Louise. Return plane vile, Helsinki airport unbelievably crowded, inefficient and stress-making. If the Birdwatcher wants to go again, I’m looking at trains!

      But the New Forest should hit the spot.

      Interim tree-hugging available in the park next to the Royal Hospital and Hyde or Battersea Parks. So I hope to stay on an even keel for foreseeable future at least.

  7. Joanna

    Loved this. I could feel my own blood pressure going down as I read. Or, at least, I thought I could 😉 So glad you have found this new avenue to imagination, creativity and (dare I say?) serenity.

    1. Sophie Post author

      Love the idea of sympathetic blood pressure reduction! So pleased.

      Serenity? Hmm. Maybe eventually. I have had flashes of it. Which is definitely a big step in the right direction.

  8. Sarah Mallory

    Oh, Sophie, just reading your post was calming! What a lovely experience for you and I am so pleased it continues to have an effect. I love the images you conjure up with your words, especially the Just William freckled choirboy! Thank you for sharing this with everyone.

    1. Sophie Post author

      So glad you enjoyed it, Sarah. The freckled choirboy analogy was irresistible, the moment I saw him in the scope. Mind you, I picked up the snub nose of a beak even in the binoculars. He definitely lifted the heart.

  9. lesley2cats

    Loved this. And I know what it’s like to lose the writing energy – I did for several months, for a variety of reasons. And suddenly, just this week (should that be last week?) it came back. Was it because I started working in the conservatory and garden? Could be. I’m more cheerful all round. I’m so glad you are, too. New Forest sounds good…

    1. Sophie Post author

      So glad your energy has come back, Lesley. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if getting your hands in the earth had played a part in it. Power to your trowel!

    1. Sophie Post author

      Thanks Susie. Finland was fantastic. We had a fabulous meal in a eco restaurant in the middle of the forest, too! Loved it all – except for horrible Helsinki airport.

      But then all airports are variable degrees of hell to me these days. I overdosed on them when I was travelling lots for work and in the years since they seem only to have got worse.

      1. Joanna

        Couldn’t agree more. These days I’m trying to restrict myself to destinations I can reach by train. Yes, it takes longer to get there, but it’s so much less stressful than ********* airports. Did a Germany trip last Autumn via Eurostar and TGV. Very enjoyable. Also less bad for climate crisis.

  10. christinahollis

    A great piece, full of insight. It’s good to know your writing is back on track. Living in the middle of a forest I can confirm that getting out among the trees has a wonderfully therapeutic effect. That’s Alex and me, enjoying a wander in the woods in your third photograph! Where in the world did you find that? 🙂 I’ve never seen a pygmy owl, but we did have a Scops Owl visit here for a while. When I heard it, I thought it was a frog. With the sound coming from high up in the tree canopy, and the cars of birdwatchers blocking the lane I soon realised my mistake…

    1. Sophie Post author

      Thank you Christina.

      Ah, yes, I see now that it is you and faithful Alex. The photo was sitting in our media library and I was looking for an English forest sunrise or sunset. It is truly atmospheric, and was exactly the feeling that I wanted. But I should have credited you. So many apologies. It’s a gorgeous picture.

      I’ve never seen a Scops Owl but I have heard its strange one-note beep on the wonderful Tweet of the Day on Radio 4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dwdb1 David Attenborough says that some people thought it was a faulty car alarm!

    2. Joanna

      Your pic was in our media library, Christina, because it was part of your guest blog, about your hairy-chested friend, Alex 😉 And it’s a lovely pic.

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