Jun 27 2011

Inspiration in Nature

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I’m honored to welcome Leah Singer to What I Saw this week. I hope you’ll enjoy her guest post and the visual and metaphorical tale she’s spun below.


I live in Southern California where the weather is nice about 90 percent of the year (tough life; I know). During the months of March and April, however, we were hit with rain and some hail, followed by beautiful, bright sunny mornings. It was on one of these days that I made a discovery in the sky that also led to a discovery about my writing.

Like every typical morning weekday, I was driving to work sipping my coffee and listening to NPR. I looked up in the sky and immediately pulled my car safely to the side of the road. There above me was a gorgeous rainbow stretched across the sky. I’d never seen a rainbow this close before and never one as large as this one appeared. I grabbed my camera (which I just happened to bring with me that day), hopped out of the car and snapped a few shots of this incredible sight.

What struck me about this experience is that you never really know what unexpected, beautiful aspect of nature you will see on a given day. To me, this started as an ordinary day, driving to work as usual. But then – what I saw – was amazing, beautiful, inspiring. I was glad I had my camera with me to capture (as best I could) the moment.

I then thought about how this experience directly relates to how I come up with writing topics. My writing process is not formal. Nearly all the pieces I write are inspired by some random thought or observation, and just come to me out of nowhere, and when I’m least expecting it – like the rainbow in the sky.

An example: I wrote a post on my blog titled A Coke Girl in a Pepsi World where I talk about my feelings of being an outsider and different among a world of “sames.” What I love about this piece, however, is how the idea came to me. I was opening the office refrigerator at work to chill my Diet Coke when I noticed the fridge was full of Pepsi cans. I placed my soda in the fridge and walked back to my office, when I thought to myself: I’m the only Coke among all the Pepsi; kind of like my life story. And THAT’S when the writing moment struck me. The blog title quickly appeared in my mind and I immediately had to jot down my thoughts. (Given I was at work, the actual post writing came at home that night.)

But that process – that discovery of something completely out of the blue – is what fuels my writing. I love that something in nature, such as a rainbow, can be such a great metaphor for my writing process.

What inspires you to write? Have you ever encountered something in nature that triggered words on a page?


By day, Leah Singer is a freelance writer, as well as a speechwriter and communications professional for the largest university in San Diego, Calif. By night, Leah blogs about family, motherhood, traditions, cooking, photography, her crazy animal family, and other such topics at Leah’s Thoughts. Blogging is a way for Leah to journal, share ideas, essays, musings, frustrations, recipes, funny stories, and – most importantly – exercise her lifelong passion for writing.


29 Responses to “Inspiration in Nature”

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    Great post! And I am so much like this Leah — never knowing when some random thing will strike me and give me a writing idea. As for nature, as I record in my blog, I’m frequently inspired by Maine’s natural beauty as well as the old buildings and history of the state. In fact, I wish mightily that I could slow down my idea generating neurons….or be less interested (no, not exactly snoopy) in my surroundings. (p.s. so nice to see you here at Melissa’s place! 🙂

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Hi Julia. Thanks for stopping by to support Leah; I’m like you … the ideas seem to pop up at will – which beats the alternative of writer’s block!

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  • avatar Shary Says:

    Leah, that’s beautiful. I’m so glad you had your camera that day. I should keep mine in my purse with my notebook and pen. (And I should remember to use them often.) I’ll be looking for “rainbows.”

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  • avatar Ann Says:

    Leah – what a great post! How wonderful that you find inspiration in the everyday. I am glad you had the rainbow. I, too am a Diet Coke girl – sometimes in a Pepsi world…. While we may be somewhat of a rare breed…there are more of us than you think!

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  • avatar Sara Says:

    I live in Southern California too and I loved the rainy Spring weather. I’ll never forget a rainbow I saw outside my work recently. It was a cloudy, muggy day, and the sky was brown. It was a very odd color I can only assume was a combination of the sun trying desperately to come through the dark intensity of the clouds and probably some good old SoCal pollution. A rainbow broke through and it was so clear it looked like paint. Tons of people at my work went outside the building and we all just stared at it for a while. I think later the sky broke into a thunderstorm.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I so wish you’d had your camera, Sara. Your description of the rainbow looking like paint is wonderful. I could see it!

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  • avatar Caryn Says:

    Great guest post Leah! I too find that my writing ideas come from seemingly random or unexpected sources. I sometimes worry that I have run out of ideas, I have no new posts in the queue. But then something always happens that sparks another idea or some untapped creativity.

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    Gosh, I remember that Coke Girl post of yours, Leah. I think that was when I first ‘met’ you.
    I sometimes feel like a lot of people are sort of cut off from the natural world. Which is scary, when you think about it. Because we are attached to this world and totally dependent on it for our survival.
    But it’s reassuring to know there are people like you and Melissa, who are very in touch with nature.
    See, that’s what your rainbow made me think of and want to write about!
    Lovely to see you here 🙂

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    How perfect that you had your camera along that day, Leah! I agree with you that some of the best writing inspiration creeps up on us or takes a brilliant streak across the sky like your rainbow. Let’s just hope there’s a pot of gold at the end! 😉

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    You’re such a literary wordsmith, Miss Jolina. Love your description.

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  • avatar Sue Mitchell Says:

    I’ll never look at rainbows the same way again! I love those surprises nature gives us and the parallel you’ve drawn to how ideas pop into our heads.

    Maybe this is what makes someone an artist…the ability to notice these things, capture them and add their own meaning.

    Think of all the people who kept driving that day, talking on their cell phones or stressing about the presentation they had to make at work.

    What’s cool is that once you learn to see, you can’t not see anymore. To me that’s one of the joys of writing–helping people see things in a way they never had before.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Sue,
    I totally agree with you that once you start ‘seeing’ and ‘looking’ for the artistic side of things, it begins to come naturally. And it’s so, so enriching.

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  • avatar Debra Shawcross Farmer Says:

    Great blog. I am imsprired to write by the love hearts I have been finding in nature….in everyday items and in food. It has been happening over the past few years. It is truly amazing. Check out Debra Shawcross Farmer Love Hearts Found on facebook.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks, Debra, for the compliments on the blog. I’m not on Facebook, so I’m not sure what Love Hearts are, but I took a wonderful shot of a saguaro that had a new growth on it shaped like a perfect heart!

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    Debra Shawcross Farmer Reply:

    Oh Melissa, that sounds Amazing. I would love to see it. If you like, you can send to an image of it to my email. I find Love hearts in Nature everyday…everywhere. I have written a book and have a Friday Pitch with Allen & Unwin. Fingers Xed …again. I look forward to reading your blog posts. Thanks, Deb

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  • avatar Susan McBeth Says:

    Leah, beautiful post! I love your Coke girl in a Pepsi world analogy! I, too, am inspired by nature, but also by books. When I was once reading a book that I found frustrating, I made a decision to always appreciate books and to make it a point to find something useful I could take away from every book!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Leah’s Coke-Pepsi post WAS terrific, Susan. I agree. I also agree that there’s something to take away from every book — sometimes you just have to look harder than others.

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  • avatar Brenda Says:

    For the longest time I thought there was something ‘wrong’ with the way that I wrote because I’d sit down with an idea in mind, let’s say ‘blue skies’ and I’d end writing something so far from blue skies it’s shook me. After a while I realized that is how ‘I wrote’, and how responded to a prompt or was influenced by something I felt, heard, or saw. It’s not orderly like an outline, but it works for me.. Aside from my own true confession her, I loved the image of the fridge full of Pepsi cans with you standing with the lone Coke can. I fell like this all the time when I am looking for size 11 shoes in a sea of 7’s. ? Wonderful and inspiring post, Leah.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I say go with what works for you, inspirationally! I find a writing lesson in nearly every nature encounter I experience, and that, in turn, influences my fiction writing, somehow making me more creative.

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  • avatar Country Wife Says:

    I love the Coke title. It’s been a long-time fun banter between my Pepsi sister and me. And love the unexpected rainbow…

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  • avatar Leah Says:

    Thank you all for your amazing and wonderful comments! I am honored to be guesting on Melissa’s blog today since I love what she does. And to those of you that mentioned this — I tend to bring my camera with me everywhere these days. I like to have it in case I get inspired (like with the rainbow!) and then I don’t have to say, “Shoot, I wish I had my camera with me.”

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I’m just like you, Leah. Only I bough a smaller compact camera to put in my purse. I’d been caught without any photography device on far too many occasions. I also take this little guy with me when I’m running!

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    Leah Reply:

    I had a feeling you did something like that. How else do you get all those amazing photos of javelinas on your runs?!

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  • avatar Stephanie Alexander Says:

    Hi Leah and Melissa! I love your analogy about the Coke/Pepsi thing, Leah! I bet you’ll find most writers agree. As most of us tend toward the introverted/solitary, we all feel a bit on the outskirts at times. Thank goodness for the internet to bring us all together!

    I’m a Coke girl, btw. But it has to be the real thing, not diet, so I save it for once a month or so. If not I’d be slurping that stuff down by the hour.

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  • avatar Shari Lopatin Says:

    I remember the “Coke Girl in a Pepsi World” post, Leah. That was one of my favorite posts by you! Definitely one of your best pieces of work. I’m just like you: those random ideas for blog posts and stories tend to surprise me throughout the day too. You never know when one will hit. That’s why I keep a small notepad in my purse at all times. Just like you had the camera to capture this moment that day, I never want to miss a moment either. 🙂 Nice post! Thanks Melissa, for hosting it!

    –Shari

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  • avatar reelingintheyears Says:

    Gorgeous, Leah! I saw a ‘double rainbow’ once at the beach, but didn’t have the photography skills that you have to capture it!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    You must be referring to the hilarious “double rainbow” video on YouTube :-).

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  • avatar Jessica McCann Says:

    Great analogy, Leah. I love how you and Melissa both find specific inspiration and connections with writing and nature. For me, while I don’t often find inspiration in specific things I see, I do find that spending some time alone with nature (even if it’s just a quiet moment on my back patio with a cup of coffee listening to the birds) allows my mind to unwind and wander, and ideas then begin to flow. Your post is great reminder that I need to do that more often!

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  • avatar Kim Samsin Says:

    Leah, I love how this worked out. My blogging partner is also in southern CA and rain and rainbows send her straight for her camera, too. It used to be hard for me to imagine that even paradise could become tiresome after a while, but the evidence is plain. Rainbows are magic. So glad one inspired this post!

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