Water from the Well

Lately, I’ve had difficulty getting into a writing frame of mind. While I understand that success in writing requires an unflinchingly consistent work schedule, when your Muse has packed up and gone on vacation, there’s only so much you can do. Professional novelists often talk about their need to consume a steady diet of reading material in order to do their own creative work, and in recent days, I’ve found myself returning to the books and authors that inspired me to write in the first place. One such book is Edward Abbey’s memoire, Desert Solitaire.

Desert Solitaire is the account of Abbey’s experiences working as a seasonal park ranger in Arches Nation Monument in the late 1950s. (This was prior to its designation as a National Park when the roads were still unpaved and the rangers had the place pretty much to themselves.) It’s a sprawling book that takes in everything from the searing Utah heat to the long-standing conflict between forces of commercial exploitation (“industrial tourism” is what Abbey calls it) and those who prefer to keep wild places unblemished.

Although Abbey is often labeled a “nature writer,” this was never his aim. He simply wanted to write well, and for him, it was the outdoors (specifically, the rugged landscape of the American Southwest) that served as the backdrop for much of his work. The modern conservation movement owes much of its origins to people like Abbey, and works like Desert Solitaire continue to inspire new generations of readers to get out and experience the country’s wild places on their own terms. While I don’t always agree with Abbey’s opinions, I do admire his uncompromising spirit and his gift at describing an often indescribable landscape.

Reading Ed Abbey makes me want to write, and this is precisely what my thirsty soul needs right now. So how about you? What “go-to” books do you turn to when your creative well runs dry?

About Scott Shields

Years ago, I left the Midwest for the deserts of Arizona. Since then, I have worked in the grocery business and as a high school English teacher. Literature and writing are my passions, and I try to share my love of the written word with my students each day.


  1. Eric Bahle says

    Tolkien always puts me in a storytelling frame of mind but if I really want to get my blood up I read some of Robert E Howard’s best Conan stories.