Why Place Matters in Writing

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https://www.hawaii.hawaii.edu/tlc/wwwwriting

 

While looking for a little bit of inspiration for this first blog post, I simply googled the terms “place” and “writing” separately to see what might come up. “Place,” obviously, came up with pictures of places with the image name “place.” Not very helpful. “Writing” was equally unhelpful, giving me pictures of pens and paper. But then I stumbled across this word cloud. I remembered doing these in elementary school, and so I checked it out.

I couldn’t help but notice that this word cloud didn’t include the word place, and that’s why I have chosen to add it here. At first I thought perhaps this word cloud simply had more literal terms and ideas in mind, words and concepts that are involved in the act of writing. “Skill,” “help center,” “abilities,” “university” seem very practical. But then I saw “people.” Surely the term “place” is just as general as “people,” so why isn’t it included?

I don’t know the answer, but I thought that I would use this blog post to figure out why. The way I see it, place informs every other concept in the word cloud, whether we know it or not. Place informs our subject matter, fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose, because everything happens somewhere. And even if you are writing about a concept in some meta fashion, without any setting, you are still in a place when you write. And that place still shapes your opinions and your work, be it the people in your place, or the sights or the smells or the sounds.

We often think of writing as a tool to take us other places, a way to escape where we are now. I think of it this way too, but in writing this post, I have realized that no matter where the writing takes you, real or imaginary or somewhere in between those two, all of those places in our writing come from places we have been and the place we are in while we write. Place does not have a single effect on writing, but it is always there, just as the place you are in is always there, in the background, whether you are thinking about it or not.

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