Looking for Inspiration

Some writers wait for inspiration to hit before they write. As a professional author, I can’t afford to wait, so I go looking for it.

Inspiration: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions

Merriam-Webster Dictionary, definition #4

Fiction writers are especially energized by sudden strikes of brilliance that scream to be transcribed. Some of my best stories felt as if they poured from my heart and mind onto the page. My worst stories? Often felt delightful in the making, too.

Which is why I didn’t use the first definition Merriam-Webster gave for inspiration: the quality or state of being outstanding or brilliant in a way or to a degree suggestive of divine inspiration.

Divine inspiration? Let’s save that for scripture.

Traveling is one way I’ve found to get inspired. If you’re about to stop reading because you don’t have time or a budget for a vacation, please reconsider. 

Brain science shows that any divergence from a regular pattern can stimulate our minds to create new neural pathways. Even something as simple as taking a different route to work can have this effect.

If you’re like me, there are dozens of places within an hour’s drive of your home that you’ve never explored. Looking for inspiration? Explore those places. Take that road with an interesting name instead of staying on the highway. Follow a deer trail beside your normal walking path (but not to the degree that requires search parties, please).

Or if you can, venture further from home.

My most recent trip took me to Palm Springs with my husband. While there, we celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. For sweet memory sake, I booked us into the same place we’d stayed for our second honeymoon twenty years ago.

View from our condo in 2002

It wasn’t the same. It seemed older. A bit like we are, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

On our anniversary, we went to dinner at a place Frank Sinatra frequented, Johnny Costas Ristorante. The atmosphere in the Sinatra room was amazing, and the food was delicious. 

Later that week, we walked all the way down Palm Canyon Drive and located the place we had our earlier anniversary meal. I pointed out the lovely patio at LG Prime Steakhouse where we enjoyed steak (before high cholesterol came to say, obviously). A few steps further south, there were a collection of Old West buildings and a fountain where I’d been photographed in my younger, less wrinkled skin.


Sadly, the fountain wasn’t running and looked as if it hadn’t been for some time. Proof that things change. A reminder that we aren’t the same either, and that’s a good thing.

2023 (opposite side of the fountain)

We revisited The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens which also seemed very unlike what we recalled. Is our memory faulty? Or did we fail to register deep photographs of those earlier times?

A wallaby I could reach out and touch (but didn’t)

It could be that the place was redesigned during the past two decades, making our memory not to blame. 

We have a photo of the mountain lion sleeping beside the glass, and when it opened its eyes, we jumped back. My heart flew into my throat. There isn’t a nook against the viewing window on the current habitat for the cat. In fact, we didn’t see that predator during this visit.

Jaguar hunting fresh meat

Thankfully, they had just cleaned the jaguar’s playroom and placed raw meat in various locations. We watched him sniff out (through his open mouth) the tidbits and snuff them up. What a show he gave us, climbing and prowling the entire enclosure.

Our new experience was a ride up the aerial tramway in San Jacinto National Park. The photos are from the ride and the exploration done at the top of the mountain.

Looking at the base station
Coachella Valley
Among the pines

Palm Springs was laid out in squares. The airport was easily identified. One neighborhood’s orange roofs shone in regular pattern. The air was crisp and cool.

View from the lookout point

We sniffed Jeffrey Pines which smelled like butterscotch to both of us. Apparently, some smell like vanilla. And that’s when the first inkling of inspiration hit.

Months ago, I imagined a child wandering out of the woods, no one knows where he came from. I’d already decided he would be born from a tree. Now, he has a name: Jeffrey Pine.

It’s a small thing, but inspiration doesn’t have to be large to galvanize creative activity. A single spark can ignite a forest fire. Perhaps this one will burn its way into a short story or even a novel.

Where have you traveled that inspired your creativity?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.