writing inspiration

A Fictional Form of Travel Writing


It was a beautiful, spring day in Kyoto, Japan. The sun was bright and warm against my bare arms. It was the first time in months I’d been able to step outside without any type of jacket on, and I’d had to go halfway around the world to do it. Even the gentle breeze was warm, and in fact I welcomed it, because with each gust of wind hundreds of cherry blossom petals flew through the air, leaving me, as well as everyone around me, breathless.

I wasn’t thinking about my novel as I stood atop the old, unused train tracks that day, the branches around me so filled with cherry blossoms that it was like walking among the clouds. Blane and Liam weren’t on my mind as I wandered along the Path of Philosophy, watching as small petals danced gently from the trees and into the canal beside me. Magic was not something I was thinking about concretely as I stared out at mount Fuji, my sight obscured by nothing more than the blossoming petals on the trees in front of me.

But my stories, my characters, and how I write were all being influenced subconsciously as I observed a sight I had dreamed of seeing for over a decade.

Travel Writing

The travel bug didn’t bite me until I was older than most. When I was growing up I didn’t take a lot of trips with my parents. We didn’t have tons of money and my parents simply didn’t have much interest in traveling far from home. I saw plenty of places around Wisconsin and we took several trips to Tennessee to visit family, but outside of the occasional trip to Chicago most of our trips were to places I already knew fairly well.

During university when travel abroad opportunities didn’t work out, I made a plan to take a 10 day trip to England with a friend from high school. Since then, in 2012, I haven’t looked back. I’ve done a lot of travel over the past 6 years, including England, Wales, Paris, Canada, Boston, Hawaii, and of course, Japan. Each place I’ve gone to has in some way had an impact on my writing.

Sometimes the impact is direct. I’ll see something beautiful or amazing that becomes a setting in a story, or I’ll meet an interesting person that inspires a character. But more often it is the feeling I get when I travel that fills me with inspiration. It is experiencing new cultures and landscapes that opens my eyes to something new on a deeper level that changes something in myself, as well as how I write.



I don’t know yet all the ways my two week trip to Japan will influence my writing, but I do know how the trip made me feel.

I could write pages and pages about my trip to Japan; the places I saw, the food I ate, the people I met; all of it was incredible. But I want to focus today on the aspects of this amazing country that have touched the way I feel and will likely the way or things I write.

First off, the Japanese people. I have never been treated so kindly in a foreign country, or even another state, as I was in Japan. For example, the day we landed in Tokyo my wife and I were looking at a map on my phone to locate our hotel. In under two minutes a Japanese man had approached us asking where we were going. He looked at the map and led us from the train station to our hotel.

A few days later an older Japanese gentleman stopped us and practiced languages with us. We had lunch with a Japanese family in Tokyo and they were incredibly generous. I took Japanese in school so I was able to communicate a bit more than the average tourist, which a lot of people seemed to appreciate. Thanks to my friend Kaitlyn, who we stayed with, I was also able to attend a tea ceremony class and tour a Japanese school. I feel like I got amazing insight into the culture through the people I met outside of a tourist setting.

The temples in Japan and shrines will probably not have a huge impact on my writing, though. I have a lot of respect for Shintoism and Buddhism. I think the religions are extremely beautiful, but I had a hard time allowing myself to properly enjoy the temples. I’m not very religious and that made me feel like an intruder. After all, there were many people praying at these locations and I wanted to remain respectful and out of the way. I’m hoping the next time I go back I can let myself be enveloped a little bit more. Despite this, simply roaming the gardens and occasionally, even rooms within the temple gave me an amazing sense of tranquility that could have an impact on my focus while writing in the future.

Of course I can’t talk about a trip to Japan without talking about how the technology has impacted my ideas. I’m not a huge fan of cities, but I loved Tokyo. It didn’t feel like a tourist attraction, it felt like a place where people live and work. But it also was a city so different from any city I have ever been to. I stayed in a capsule hotel. I saw virtual reality games in every arcade I visited. I went to themed cafes where I was completely immersed into a different time period while in the middle of a modern city. I’m not sure what impact this will have on my current novel, but I do have ideas for new stories.

The nature in Japan is the least concrete subject that influences my writing, but it is also what has the largest influence. Nature makes me feel spiritual in a way that churches do not, and that was the same in Japan. It’s hard to put how I feel about this into words. I spent hours gazing at cherry blossom trees, mount Fuji, and beautiful forests. They gave me a sense of calm and introspection. Places like this that produce feelings like this really inspire me to write, and inspire me to write better.

Other Travel Destinations


I’ve had plenty of other travel destinations that have inspired my writing. There are some really important aspects of some of my novels that are completely influenced by places I have traveled to in the past. The cave Liam spends his time in was inspired by the lava rocks I saw silhouetted against the ocean in Hawaii. In Seeking Utopia, the first novel in a trilogy I am working on, a very important location is based on the ruins of Caerphilly Castle in Wales, a place I spent hours exploring on my first international trip in 2012.


The main image of my website is a photo I took in Toronto, Canada. Different cultures I’ve experienced have influenced characters and settings. It’s impossible to separate my writing from my experiences traveling.

Travel Blogging

People have asked me before why I’ve not started travel blogging, and there’s a few reasons why. While I’ve thought about being a digital nomad in the past, I can safely say it is not for me. As many travel bloggers will tell you, travel blogging is a lot of hard work. I completely respect it as a profession, but I want to focus my energy on creating content, not SEO tactics and marketing.

Beyond that, I don’t want to see a beautiful destination and worry about how to take the perfect Instagram photo. Because my travel is really focused on how a destination makes me feel and how it can influence my fictional writing, I don’t want to get hung up on small details like that.

Plus there are the practical matters of being a travel blogger. While I love to travel and love to write, I don’t actually enjoy writing about my travel experiences, even in a personal blog to look back on later. Honestly, the task bores me. Even telling friends and family members about my trip can become tedious after a while.

I also really enjoy having a home. By the end of my trip to Japan I was ready to get home, not because I wasn’t having fun, but because I wanted the chance to relax. And while I know I would be able to travel more slowly if I was a travel blogger, I’m not sure I would. I’m an obsessive planner, and for travel blogging you need to be flexible. I really struggle with being flexible.

Though I’d love to be sponsored to take a trip so if anyone can make that happen it would be great. I’ll make sure to use the location in my next book.

Meet My Writing Space

While I prefer to spend my writing time at local coffee shops, spending all that money on coffee really adds up. And unfortunately, there are no 24 hour coffee shops in Milwaukee (that I know of) so sometimes I have to do my writing at home.

My wife and I aren’t rolling in money so right now we’re still renting a 1 bedroom apartment and I doubt that will change anytime soon. Because of this I am not lucky enough to have an entire office to myself for doing writing work.

But my wife was kind enough to give me full ownership of the desk in our living room, as well as partial ownership of the bookshelf next to it. I’ve been working on transforming it into a space that inspires me to get work done.

The Desk


So, I’m not gonna lie, this desk isn’t great. It’s not the most sturdy and the height is awkward for typing (though it may be my height). For years this desk was a breeding ground for stray papers - post it notes we’d had for months, junk mail, old grocery lists - pretty much everything we didn’t know what to do with ended up here. As you can see though it is now a clean workspace, and that’s forced us to not let our papers pile up as well.

I have a large open space for my laptop with extra room on either side of it. I usually have a cup of coffee beside me as I write, since it seems I can’t focus without it. This still gives me space for a notebook if I need it, though usually I only use one when I am editing.

Along the wall of the desk is where I keep my writing essentials. I have post it notes and pens for practical use, but most of the stuff on my desk is for inspiration. The Writer’s Market book isn’t for me to reference yet, as I am still writing a first draft, but seeing it is a reminder of what I am working towards. I picked up the wooden sign at a TJ Maxx so I could look at it when I was struggling and have a good laugh. I plan to add some type of plant in the far right corner as well, once I get back from my trip to Japan.

Desk Storage


This desk was meant to hold a keyboard, but we’re a laptop family. Instead I use it to hold items I may like to reference on a regular basis.

This is where I keep printed copies of my critiques. I also have an editing textbook I was assigned in college stored here for easy reference, as well as a book of writing prompts for when I’m simply lacking inspiration.

Bookshelf Storage


Since the computer desk is very small, I use the neighboring bookshelf to hold some of my materials I use regularly for writing. The most important of these are my binders and notebooks. I keep a lot of material here including outlines, character notes, and plot ideas. For one of my novels I even have a map I (poorly) drew that I have to reference almost every time I work on the book.

I also keep all my writing textbooks from college here. Well, the ones I liked. I don’t usually use them, but it’s nice to have them closeby. They have a lot of good writing advice. Sometimes when I am writing I know there’s a problem but not how to fix it, so having these reference materials can be a huge help.



I’ve tried to utilize my wall space as well. In the future I’d like to add some shelving to give me more storage space, but strictly speaking I’m not supposed to so that’s on the backburner. For now, I’ve hung two framed illustrations of Sherlock Holmes’ flat. I adore Sherlock, as I’ve mentioned before, and I adore these prints.

I also have a whiteboard. How exactly I use this whiteboard changes depending where in the writing process I am. Right now I’m about 75% through my first draft of FanFact, so I’m keeping note of things I need to go back and change on the whiteboard. Sometimes I use it to track plot points. Other times, when I’m swamped, it becomes a To Do list.



So these aren’t technically a part of my writing space, but usually they end up being there. First off, coffee. I really enjoy coffee. Expensive coffee, cheap coffee, flavored coffee, fancy coffee beverages, I like it all. Right now this is my favorite coffee cup. It’s very thick and from a local coffee shop, so it gives the illusion of being in a cafe.

I also usually have a throw blanket with me. I like to be comfortable, and just having a blanket wrapped around me or in my lap seems to make me more productive. My two favorite throw blankets in the apartment are this Christmas one (it’s huge and super soft) and this Sherlock one (it’s Sherlock).

Music. Some writers love it, some hate it. I’m sort of in the middle. My favorite ambiance for writing is quiet background music along with the sounds of everyday shuffling. I like to use the website Coffitivity to give me the background noise of a cafe. I’ve found it makes me a lot more productive than just listening to music with my headphones on. It provides the exact amount of background noise I need to sit down and focus.

I hope you liked my writing space tour! I’ll be heading to Japan next week so don’t expect any new blog posts for a couple of weeks. If you’re interested in seeing my adventures in japan, feel free to follow me on Instagram!