Wabi-Sabi for writers or finding inspiration in an imperfect world

Your life is dull and boring. Nothing ever happens. Nothing inspires you to write.

Sound familiar?
When we think of the life of other writers, we often imagine them having amazing adventures and experiences. We see them sitting on the tops of mountain peaks thinking deep transcendental thoughts, while overlooking stunning dawns or expressive sunsets. We do not see them sitting in a home office, at their laptops, in their PJ’s with their hair unbrushed and yesterday’s coffee cups mouldering in the background, which is more often the reality.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that life has to be full of excitement, and attractive opportunities before we can sit down and write. But sometimes life isn’t perfect and thrilling. Sometimes life is just life. Messy. Boring. Imperfect. Mutable. Just like the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi”.

“Western beauty is radiance, majesty, grandness and broadness. In comparison, Eastern beauty is desolateness [wabi-sabi]. Humility. Hidden beauty.” 

Shozo Kato

Wabi-sabi is a concept that is hard to define, (and I’m sure I’ll do it badly). In some ways, it is a philosophy that embraces the simplicity of everyday life and appreciating it for what it is, embracing and even celebrating it. Personally, I think this is an important skill for writers.

Life is mostly mundane.

My recent travels were stirring, there were moments filled with actual awe, but for the most part they were mundane and filled with everyday activities like grocery shopping, cooking dinner, taking my son to the park. But, It was in these ordinary moments, taking the tube, walking through city streets, listening to children play, where I most often found my muse.

Looking for the beauty in the old and everyday.

Perhaps while I was travelling I was more open to the sights of even the most familiar places because they were unfamiliar to me. Sights, sounds, smells that were new and just a little divergent from my own grabbed my attention. There is, however, no reason why this shouldn’t be part of our everyday existence. Your backyard is fascinating to someone who doesn’t have one. The run down pub down where you grab a quick brew every Friday afternoon could be charming to tourists.

If you’re feeling uninspired by your surroundings, stop thinking about them from the perspective of someone who has lived their entire life in a dessert or up a tree. Your muse doesn’t visit only when you trip the light fantastic or circumnavigate the globe. She sits on your kitchen counter, kicking her feet and smiling at the everyday way you make a cup of coffee (which is entirely different to how they do it in Turkey).

Embrace the simple tools.
It is too easy to think along the lines of “when I have this or that, then I can start”. Samurai warriors sometimes had the wealth to sleep under sheets made of literal gold, but they didn’t. They chose to use the simple tools of everyday life. Writers need nothing more than a pen and scraps of paper to write their opus. They also only need the ebb and flow of normal life to find inspiration, if only they take the time to appreciate it.

Embrace the normality of life, the transient beauty and enduring, impermanent flow of it. Be authentic, find those things that are distinctive in your world and rest in those moments. Take time to observe them and, above all, write about them.

Tracey Ambrose
"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment." Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Loved your article, Tracey. So true. Writers and photographers that embrace the mundane and simple things in life can find their muse smiling in any moment. Just takes a change of perspective. <3

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