Freshly fallen snow crunched beneath my boots. I almost hated to mar its surface, but the sharp, sweet scent of the evergreens welcomed me in. Barren oaks creaked and clacked together, beckoning me forward.
Who says the great white northern winter isn’t beautiful?
Last week, my children and I set out to capture the splendor with a new camera after a big winter storm dropped half a foot of snow in 24 hours. And it was just what my ailing creative muse needed as I trudge through the first draft of a new contemporary romance. Because, I’ll be honest, this one’s not coming as easy as the last and I’ve been doubting myself. A lot. (A.K.A. staring at my blinking cursor, over-thinking every line, tapping my fingers, basically everything short of pulling my hair out. Okay, maybe a little of that, too.)
Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. I’d have to, to keep at a near-impossible dream. But sometimes I know I need to take a little break from the story and the little voice saying I can’t possibly finish this thing.
You know, that voice saying, who do you think you are? You, write a book? Who are you kidding? You’re not fast enough. Good enough. I’m mean, hello, evidence: Other peoples’ stories come so easily to them. Right? Okay, as a Christian and a friend of quite a few writers, I know these are not true. But sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in this web of lies when it’s just me vs. a blank page.
That’s why getting outside is my ‘go-to’ de-stressor and what I call my creative muse.
The weights clinging to my shoulders, especially in relation to my writing— the character depth I can’t seem to mine, why these two characters need to be in the same room let alone fall in love, the plot holes I can’t quite stitch together— either become clear or melt away as I marvel at God’s fingerprint on earth.
Whether you’re a creative person who needs a mini-soul-revival, you’re in a busy space of life, going through major changes, loss, depression or anxiety, I hear you. I’ve been/ am there. And while taking a walk or hike doesn’t cure everything, I do believe it can give a fresh perspective on whatever creative pursuit you’re feeling stuck on and can declutter a busy brain by bringing us closer to the One who created us.
Here are some things getting outdoors has done for me. It:
- Brings focus from inside to outside myself. It’s harder for me to focus on my inner monologue, my to-do lists, all the things I see as going wrong in my writing when I’m standing in the beauty and simplicity of nature.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
2. Promotes a thankful heart. Something about breathing deep of that fresh air and remembering how God created this place with the intention of sharing it with me— me —and somehow, I don’t feel so uninvited, so alone, or overwhelmed. I feel him, his presence, and I’m just so grateful he would think of me and create me along with the splendor of this earth. And that leads me to think of all the ways he’s provided for and blessed me. How he set this passion for writing in my heart and he’s not about to waste it or leave me hanging without his help. A Christian mentor once told me if only I could fully understand the extent of his love for me, I’d never doubt his goodness again.
“I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.” Psalm 9:1 (NASB)
3. Helps my physical and mental health. A healthy body = a healthy mind= Mollie stringing along some sentences that make sense. I probably don’t need to say much on this one. It’s a given that exercise will improve your physical health and studies have shown it helps mental health as well. And let’s be honest, the new camera I bought and the picture-taking walks I keep dragging my kids on, are pretty much my weight-loss strategy at this point. My tree-planting husband will also be pleased to know there’s studies showing the properties in soil are actually natural antidepressants!
4. Makes me appreciate the Big and Little pictures. Going for these picture-taking adventures has me looking for the unexpected beauty around me. It might be the surprise flock of swans flying overhead or the frost-covered blade of dead grass or the majesty of a sunset. In my writing life, seeing the details as well as the overall story is essential. And for some reason, being outside and seeing how an intelligent Creator worked all of the little stuff together with the big stuff, unlocks that part of my brain.
“Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.” Romans 1:20 (TLB)
5. Clears space in my crowded brain to solve problems. There’s something that happens when I get outside of these four walls that’s much like the walls around my plots issues or life decisions coming down. Maybe it has something to do with the lack of distractions. There’s no TV, no Facebook to check, no devices, dishes, or laundry. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I have a problem to solve I want to escape into something else so I don’t have to deal with it. Even reading can be a distraction. But when you’re outside, it’s just you and the quiet. So your brain doesn’t have any choice but to unravel that problem. Hey, that wasn’t a discouragement from reading, by the way. Maybe a book and a quiet spot under a tree are just what the doctor ordered!
Even my accountant husband, who would probably not consider himself creative, loves to grow things and watch his hard work sprout in the summer. Each of us, in our way, create. It’s that essence of our Father in us. We create because he created us. It’s a part of who we are, and in my life, taking a moment to breathe in his Creation— touch it, feel it on my skin— has helped me, in turn, create with my writing. It also helps to bring back my physical, mental, and spiritual health back into alignment.
What about you? What are your creative pursuits? And what are your go-to de-stressors?
P.S. Here’s one of my little adventurers. Isn’t she adorable?
A born and bred Midwesterner, Mollie Rushmeyer makes her home in central Minnesota with her husband and two spunky, beautiful daughters. From a young age, she loved putting words to page and dreamed of becoming an author. As an inspirational contemporary romance and women’s fiction writer, she loves to bring stories of hope to messy, prodigal gals just like her.
She’s an active member of ACFW and is the Vice President of her local chapter. In her “spare” time she lives out her Lois Lane fantasies as a local print journalist, writes encouraging online content for Crosswalk and iBelieve, is an outdoors enthusiast, a passionate champion for the freedom of human trafficking victims, loves to sing and read, and enjoys full-time employment as a monkey-catcher… ahem, mommy.
You can connect with her more at: