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5 Tips For Getting Creative In The Great Outdoors

Nature is the best studio.

By: Sean Guidera + Save to a List

The list of famous quotes, poems, and paintings depicting scenes in nature and the feelings they conjure up is endless. It’s easy to understand why! Nothing can really inspire like immersion in the great outdoors and nothing gets the creative juices flowing like a breath of fresh air. Whether you prefer an empty beach and perfect break or a massive mountain with ice ­cold rivers to jump in, surrounding yourself with the type of nature that calls out to your soul is the best way to stimulate the artistic wanderer in all of us. Here are some quick and easy steps to help get your own river of creativity flowing:

1. Pack your tools

Whatever you’re in the mood to do that day, whether it's photography, writing, music, sketching or painting, make sure you have everything you need to do it. Maybe it’s just a sketch pad and a few pencils, or maybe it’s a full easel, quiver of brushes and color palette. It really doesn’t matter, your tools are your tools, just make sure you can get them as far into the wilderness as you want to go! Currently, I’m filling a 6x8 spiral notepad and always bring my go-­to pen plus a backup. Almost time to bring a backup notepad, too - that thing is getting full.

Camp by the Spiral Jetty | Photo: Prajit Ravindran

2. Find your sweet spot

Know yourself, my friend, and your feet will take you where the creativity will run rampant. When I intend to write, I like to start hiking early. That way, if it’s a new trail, I have plenty of time to get a feel for the surroundings and find a spot that is going to be conducive to the type of work I want to do and the type of inspiration I’m looking for. Want to be riverside? Go find it. Want a striking mountain view with perfect light? Go find it! I usually try to find a comfortable tree to lean back on. This, apparently, is the way my body likes to write.

3. Get comfortable

Speaking of a comfortable tree to lean on, I usually also pack a blanket to sit on and weather appropriate clothes. Once you’re settled, it’s always a great idea to meditate. That fountain inside of us never runs dry, but we sometimes have to quiet our minds to hear it bubbling. This is another reason why nature is so conducive to creativity! It’s much easier to forget about our worldly worries and reprioritize fresh air and feeling good, thus letting the creativity flow. Definitely bring enough water and some food to stay fueled and hydrated. Cozy body = free mind. Need a little extra encouragement? Beer or wine won’t hurt in moderation, or pack a flask of whiskey if you don’t want to weigh yourself down for backcountry creativity.

Hike the Golden Cliffs Trail | Photo: Kathleen Morton

4. Think about what you want to create, but not too hard!

What are you trying to convey here? Do you want to share with the world what you see or how you feel about what you see? Is it the slight breeze bringing you back to the present moment or letting your spirit identify with how big the sky is? Or do you just want people to know that the green on that fir tree is by far the best green you’ve ever seen? Once you know what you’re going for, go for it and don’t think anymore. I’ve caught myself editing lines that haven’t even been written yet, and suddenly the thought is gone. I rarely edit anything until I get home. As long as I feel I’ve accurately conveyed the feeling, at least to a point where I will recognize it later and be able to continue writing, I stop as soon as it feels clumsy or like I’m forcing it.

5. Make it your own

I struggled for a while to “find my voice.” It seemed like whatever I wrote didn’t actually sound like me. The truth was, I wanted most of my poetry to sound like something in between how I convey myself to friends and family and the thoughts that usually don’t make it all the way out. How are you trying to make people feel with your art, and how do you want them to find that feeling? Are you a painter who wants to be as accurate as possible or do you want to be more abstract in proving your point? Do you want to write a poem that can’t be misinterpreted or do you want to invite people in with subtlety? People may write about the same river, paint the same mountain or sketch the same bird, but only you create as yourself.

I was recently fortunate enough to publish my first children’s book, Ethan The Raindrop, and I used these steps outlined above to write it and come up with a plan to publish. It is a book about the vastness of life and I hope to help children get excited about their journey while finding contentment through a relationship with nature. It outlines the water cycle, so when I was ready to write, I always packed my notepad and pens, hiked to one of my favorite rivers outside Lyons, CO, wrote with my storyline in mind and edited when I got home, thinking about my goddaughter, who it was written for. Being outside and following these steps allowed me to create something I’m stoked to share with the world! I hope next time you’re getting outside, it’s not just to cover miles or gain altitude, but also to elevate your mind and share yourself with the world.

Cover photo: Austin Trigg

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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