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Kelly McMasters Recommends...

Writers Recommend

Posted 4.21.14

"Whenever I’m feeling stuck or stale in my writing, I find that the proverbial walk in the woods offers everything from relief to inspiration. When my subject is too raw, I’m soothed by the solitude of the forest—solitude meaning alone without the page staring me in the face. When I feel like my writing is lacking texture or isn’t visual enough, I get outside and try to run through all my senses—what scents are in the air? What sounds? Getting my legs moving, feeling the prickerbushes rip at my arms, the sharp glare of the sun or snap of wind in my face all offer a physicality that jolts me out of the rote rhythm of writing, that computer cocoon. My husband, Mark Milroy, is an artist and I also like to look at his landscapes for this same awakening effect. I call him a nonfiction painter and I know firsthand most of the views where he paints his landscapes. Yet I am always astounded by what he sees. His work has changed the way I see—the layering of hills, the purple of a field, the strange rectangular angle of an oncoming ocean wave. His skies are never simply blue, his grass never simply green. It took me a while to realize the same is true in real life—a fundamental realization for a nonfiction writer!"
Kelly McMasters is the author of Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town (PublicAffairs, 2008)

Reader Comments

  • seniorfrog says...

    What works for me is doing any kind of physical work/movement albeit not too strenous or too focused, such as working in the neighborhood, housework, etc. It doesn't necessarily have to be a beautiful place; it could be an everyday place. And I have to be alone--no company, no talking, not even listening to anything. It's not to say it works all the time, but it often does. 

  • TimothyS721 says...

    In South-East Wisconsin there are no wooded areas (at least none you wanna visit). The place to jog my creative mind is at the lake. Taking pictures, walking with family or alone. Good conversation and lunch on the lake front even does it. Your suggestion makes me think of changing it up-stepping it up a bit. I have tons of pictures of the lake front but nothing of an area that has life other than sand, water, sky, and the pleasant smell of dead fish. Some leaves, dirt and trees will so my scrapbook sum good. Again, thanks...

  • robfeller3 says...



    I've found that what I'm most afraid of writing, what Joseph Conrad called his "Heart of Darkness" writnig, frees me up to write and write.

    I don't judge. I just go stream of consciousness.

    It works everytime.

    Give it a try!

    Rob Feller

  • PoeticNimbus says...

    I remember once, in high school, my classmates and I had to visit the Fine Arts Center and use paintings to inspire a poem. It was such a beautiful day and I realized my combined love of art and writing was a match. So I get why you look at paintings and to be inspired. It really does go hand in hand and I have forgotten that.


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