Why does place matter to my writing?

Within the broadly-defined practice of creative writing exist many distinct disciplines.  One such discipline, formally known as creative nonfiction, focuses on the recollection of that which we as writers have experienced in our own lives.  As a writer who has much more luck putting his own life into words than bringing the words themselves to life, nonfiction is an area of great interest to me.  In my limited study of the subject, one place-related term I came across frequently was “distance”.  “Distancing” yourself from the event you wish to write about can often grant a fresh piece, a reinterpretation in a new light, a recount which has shed the suffocating emotions that hinder true discovery and development.  Writing is anything but static, and I would argue that moving not only through time but also through space is important in providing necessary “distance” for crafting a creative nonfiction piece.


Throughout my life as a young adult, I have traveled a great deal.  Almost yearly, my family takes trips to the Carolinas, Ohio, New York City, and the Adirondacks.  Less regularly, I have been up and down both coasts of the United States, (from Seattle to San Francisco in the West and from Montreal to Orlando in the East) to Spain, to the Midwest, or to Canada.  My memory in and of these places has always been good, but as I age it is being ruthlessly worn by the incessant flow of time.  I have felt on multiple occasions as though my memories are continuously slipping through the cracks, escaping me forever, helplessly lost in the ever-growing void between myself and my childhood.  However, I am granted solace by the way these memories tend to return to me, appearing spontaneously in my mind’s eye as if they had never left, entirely intact.


Oftentimes I have observed this event to be triggered by a related experience.  I’ll see someone or something that spurs contemplation in my subconscious, firing a chain of neurons at a moments notice, and before I know it, a memory previously forgotten is at the forefront of my conscious thought.  I marvel nearly every time it happens.  Naturally, traveling aids this somewhat haphazard process.  Something about experiencing new things tends to help in uncovering the old, and too often is it that I feel the bland monotony of a well-scheduled life weighing on my creativity.


Although I may not know exactly how these memories return, or be able to predict when they will, their appearance grants me a superb opportunity as a writer to revisit pieces of my own history.  It is my hope that the more I travel the world around, the more I will be able to rediscover memories forgotten.

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