Author Natasha Carthew discusses wild writing; the benefits of writing outside, and tips on drawing inspiration from the world around you.
The natural world draws writers: for solace and inspiration, and for a wealth of narratives.
Even if we don’t write about nature, nature generates the stories we tell. This is because everything we know about creating, we know intuitively from the natural world. One can set the stage for creation by following these three steps: consciously naming the information gathered by the senses, describing the sensory details of one particular thing, and interacting with the energy system of the earth.
As writers we must strive to make this kind of connection between the everyday and the hidden, noting the beauty all around us to develop a rich relationship with wildness inside and out.
When I write I’m drawn to the outside countryside around me out of necessity. It’s a way to clear my head and immerse myself fully with the world that my characters inhabit.
As a writer, the countryside is very important to me. It’s where my characters get to survive in the open elements, make sense of their lives and generally play havoc. This is their environment, they own it.
So where to start? Stuff a notebook and pencil into your pocket and get out there, if it’s raining find a tree; if it’s hot a tree will do just as well. Whether your wild world is in the woods or in your local park, being outside in the open air and all the elements thrown your way is the first step on your wild writing journey, and the other is letting go. To be submerged in your outside environment is to know inspiration is close; have faith, you are now ready to be lost in the moment.
We all know writing takes time and sitting outside watching the world go by helps in this process. You might not be writing but you are observing, things come to you and pass you by and this world is beyond your control. It is fluid and that fluidity is exciting, you no longer think about writing but merely start to write; ideas, descriptions, snippets of dialogue, verse.
When I sat down to write my first book Winter Damage, from the time ideas started to form in my head to the final editing process, the book was written entirely outside with the forever fields of South-East Cornwall as a backdrop and the stunning moors behind. It wasn’t long before the characters from the book sat down with me and trusted me enough to share their incredible story.
The answer to the question as to whether writing outside was more creative is undoubtedly yes. Most people spend their lives looking through windows at this other world - windows in houses and cars and TV/computer screens which they visit as third party spectators. Writing outside, especially if writing a book set mostly in the wild, might seem a challenge to some writers but it is recommended -even taking a walk before writing brings you closer to your creative self and opens your mind to all the possibilities available to you.
Before you know it, you have made the next big step in your journey to getting published.
Top tips for writing outside are firstly to dress weather-wise; sitting outside is going to be way colder than a stroll in the woods. Sit some place sheltered so you don’t get wet or sunstroke or have your notebook ripped from your hand by howling gales. Bring a pencil in case the air is damp. Views are good, even in a park or on the roof of a block of flats. The more perspective you have the more you see (you are an artist), and don’t forget the detail that exists in everything.
Nothing coaxes jumbled thoughts into coherent sentences like sitting by a river on a summer’s day or under a tree in a rainstorm; either way I know I’ll produce my best work.
As a wild writer, landscape is more than just scenery: it is the interaction between people and place; the bedrock upon which our society is built and as a writer it is everything.
The landscape of my native Cornwall is exceptionally important to me and my writing, I feel a belonging to this landscape, a knitting of self and world, clarity and focus, of being fully present, and this is why I write outside and why I recommend it to all writers, no matter what stage you are at on your writing expedition.
Natasha Carthew is a Country Writer from Cornwall where she lives with her girlfriend of nineteen years. She has had three books of poetry published. Her first novel Winter Damage was nominated for the 2014 Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for several national awards including the prestigious Branford Boase Award 2014. Her new book The Light That Gets Lost is out now. She has recently completed her third book, also for Bloomsbury. She runs 'Wild Writing' workshops and spends most of her time writing outside in all weathers.