Ebb and flow of inspiration (2 of 2) (Archived)

Nicole Walsh Author
4 min readJan 17, 2021


Inspiration flitters through my world like a delicate butterfly, alighting briefly on the stage of my attention. Grabbing and grasping at an idea too roughly usually knocks the beauty off it. Trying to snatch it out of the air before it alights occasionally works… Other times it results in a butterfly-shaped smear of dust and colour.

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. Butterflies should never be clutched and grasped at. The image of a delicate, beautiful butterfly tickling my awareness is exactly how a timid new idea usually feels for me. Some ideas blaze across the horizon of my world, so all-consuming they suck the energy for any other task or priority into its gravitational pull. Other times inspiration presents as a tease and a tickle.

Inspiration strikes in various ways and rarely at sensible or useful times. Many writers will be familiar with the 3am epiphanies, but for me it is usually the final minutes of a writing block as I’m about to shut down to attend my day job. There’s a limit of how much of the gloriously beautiful and intoxicating flow I can hammer out in those final minutes before I have to pry myself off the keyboard and put other people’s needs ahead of my own.

Rather than sulk and sigh over all the opportunities lost, I am determined to put my energy into evoking inspiration in my every day world. What if we were able to turn up the volume on our creative energy? What if we could find a way to weave creativity into every day, rather then silo it to a few eroded, time-poor blocks?

A technique that works for me is trains. Or, to be more precise, public transport. Buses are just as good. I take public transport to and from work at least once a week. I suspect this technique will not be as inspiring for people who take buses/trains/trams to work every day as I assume it would become tiresome and routine and we would switch to autopilot.

It works for me because public transport is something I only do a few times a week. Getting to work without my car requires a bus as well as a train and quite a bit of walking. The more complex journey is healthy for me in so many ways. I get more fresh air, sunshine and exercise, leaving me more alert and focused. Because the journey is unfamiliar and requires concentration, I am more in the moment. Most importantly for me, from a creative angle, I’m not driving. My mind can soften and veer off and wander at will.

I’m sure it goes without saying, I don’t spend the journey staring at the screen of my phone. I spend the time looking (discretely) at the people around me. Discretion is easy when everyone is staring at their phones! I also spend a lot of time staring outside. The thing I love most about trains and buses is the fact that in my part of the world the trainline runs across the back of businesses and factories. You can see into people’s backyards. You can see into the weed-choked, rusted out, private corners of people’s worlds from an angle they have probably never imagined. I love that.

I find inspiration in the wordings of signs and advertisements, spinning concepts around in my head and wondering if I can manage a quirky, spec fic angle. The voyeuristic peek into people’s backyards offers a brief snapshot of the back end of someone’s life. So many stories linger in backyards. A bolted shed, old swing sets, a cubby house rotting out of a tree.

I spotted an old wooden door standing upright, propped against a tree. Who put it there? Where would it open to? Was it locked? Did the handle ever rattle ominously? I mused upon a discarded can in a ditch. What hand selected it off the shelf? What things mattered to that person in that moment, what world-shifting event they might have experiencing as they reached for a hit of caffeine.

I enjoy this game so much I have been taking buses and trains whenever I can for over a year now. I meet friends along trainlines just so I can get a train and rarely take my car anywhere on the weekends. Sometimes I sit and daydream and ponder, exercising my creative muscles. Other times I make notes in my phone (yes, sometimes I DO gaze into my screen!).

The world is full of stories. The first step is to give ourselves space to notice the traces these stories leave behind and take time to daydream and wonder. Is there a ‘why’ we can unpack? Inspiration springs from brainstorming a list of those whys, picking the most whimsical and unique and spinning a story off that.

How do you create space for inspiration in your life? Could jumping your mind out of the groove of autopilot give your imagination the space to unfold its wings and flutter?

(Posted 22 Mar 2020. Follow me at: https://nicolewalshauthor.com/)



Nicole Walsh Author

Nicole writes short and novel length speculative fiction. She writes a weekly blog at: https://nicolewalshauthor.com/ or www.facebook.com/nicolewalshauthor