Use the City You Live In As a Source of Inspiration for Your Creative Work

Photo by Jennifer Sando

Photo by Jennifer Sando

If you would like to be more inspired by the city you live in when it comes to your creative work, I thought of three ways in which you could encourage and pursue this.

Review events around town

Had an impressive brunch on the weekend at a new cafe`? Write about it. Caught a gig at a renovated music venue? Write about it. Stumbled into a new homewares store? Yes, write about it! You can do this even if you aren’t a paid reviewer. If you’re active, dedicated and attentive enough, it may lead to paid work. If you write fiction, the details you notice (dialogue, smells, sounds, architecture) are bound to surface in your stories.

This doesn’t apply only to creatives; my own child’s primary school teacher took the class on weekly walks around the school’s precinct to observe the multiple building projects that were in progress. During these observations, the teacher drew the kids’ attention to the construction and general mathematics relating to the building, as part of the lessons.

Your reading choices

You could actively read books written by local writers, fictional stories set in your city, or pay more attention to what is reported around town in your local newspapers/websites. Many of our ideas come from what we read; by absorbing our hometown through someone else’s perspective, it can indirectly inspire our work.

A daily journal

Keep a journal to document where you visit daily. If you don’t or can’t get out much, you can make it about what you observe in your street, neighbourhood—even a drive to pick up the kids from school. Unless you get about with your eyes closed, I’d bet there’s something that you notice and can write about. Ask yourself how you can tie that thought in with the city.

You could even centre your daily journal around your workplace. Words that your co-workers have said, or something the barista said to you when you got your morning coffee. Side note: if it’s a negative spin, don’t leave your journal lying around!

My City: Adelaide

As for me, below are three ways in which my own city has proved to be a source of inspiration for my creative work.

1. My novel is set in Adelaide and I referred to actual places around town. Because my job as a wedding photographer acted as a seed for my story, it made a lot of sense to use locations that I was familiar with. It was a natural choice that developed organically.

2. For my wedding photography, often I need a plan of where I am going to take the couple for the creative part of their shoot. Scouring the city for interesting locations with quirky details inspire the photos I plan to take.

3. When I was in search of a local group of writers that I could bond with, for the purpose of support and inspiration, I ended up creating my own group. I found this to be a powerful source of inspiration.

The last reason is the strongest example to offer in addressing the question: how is living in Adelaide a source of inspiration for your writing or your job? This question was put forward by my writing group for the first instalment in our (hopefully) regular blog chain exercise.

The following writers from the group, Writers In Adelaide, have taken part in the chain:

I would love to hear how your city inspires you–especially relating to your creative work. Thanks! 9 Comments

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About Jennifer Sando

I am a writer and photographer, and author of the book, Picture In A Frame.

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9 Replies

  1. Great vignette Jennifer! I often don’t think to write about the smaller things I observe in my day to day life but I’m thinking I should a lot more. Thank you for that prompt!

    1. Thanks Dean! I hate to encourage writers to eavesdrop but a story’s gotta come from somewhere, right? 😉

  2. Excellent post Jennifer! I found it really inspiring. Thank you for the tips.

    1. Cheers Kirsty. Looking forward to reading your post – I’m enjoying the different takes on the question so far.

  3. daniebothawriter

    Jennifer,
    Thank you for reaffirming my own plan for this afternoon—capture some cityscapes, hopefully graffiti on walls which I want to use as a banner image.
    Use what you have.
    Look with FRESH eyes at your immediate world!

    1. Hey Danie, glad to hear it. Fresh eyes, indeed. It’s been a while since I trekked around the city to shoot with no agenda. I think I need to do this, too. : )

  4. Great post Jennifer. A very good reminder for us creatives on why we need that notebook stashed in our bags or record our interactions digitally for future idea generation. For me Adelaide has always been a great source of inspiration & creativity. I’m looking forward to explaining why in my blog post.

    1. Thanks Fontella! I know you’ll appreciate that if writing time is hard to come by, then observing, digesting, memorising (etc) can be the next best thing for our unwritten stories . . .

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