Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Writer's Geography

We recently moved our family from the seacoast of New England to the lake country of the Midwest. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how place can inform, inspire and provide a foundation for one’s writing. At least I still have bodies of water around me – although I will miss the salty taste of the wind on my lips from being near the ocean.

I am a writer in transition. I am still surrounded by boxes, I still refer to NH as “back home” and I haven’t even registered with a dentist yet. We are settling in though, making this house a home, and letting our feet land on the ground of this new town. Did I mention that they have chosen this year to dig up the streets of the entire downtown area, so that you have to take a 5-mile detour to get to the good grocery store? I am still adjusting.

Author Natalie Goldberg wrote about how sad she was to leave Taos, which was a very fertile place for her writing. She was given sage advice from her meditation teacher who told her not to grow too attached to a geographical place, that her writing would flourish anywhere. It is akin to having a personal crisis if you cannot find your lucky pen before sitting down to a writing session. I was sad to leave New England too. My writing flourished there, and I had just found a wonderful community of writers who all met regularly at open mic nights to share their love of poetry. By the way, I also have several "lucky" pens. I know that the pen does not hold the magic though. It is the writer who holds all of the cards – all of those bent, scribbled index cards with ideas and character descriptions. The love for a story grows within the heart and the essence of that story finds you - wherever you are. You can be in a car driving to a family reunion. You can be in the shower thinking only about how much conditioner to use. The opening lines of a story will be whispered in your ear, like an overheard conversation. You can even be in the unfamiliar finished basement of your new house, with a half finished office set up and every book you own stacked onto ten bookcases against every wall. You are waiting – waiting for the writing to return – and it will. It does. That favorite coffee house with the atmosphere that makes your words sing? You will find another cozy java spot. That inlet by the beach where the waves crash 20 feet high against the rocks after a storm and which is your lucky spot to write? You will find a quiet patch of grass by the lake that will open up a wellspring of words.

A writer’s geography is in the mind. You are always “on location”. A treasured place can be reassuring – it can spark a flow of words that introduces you to new worlds. Never forget that there is a universe of creativity in your writer’s soul. Take it with you.

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