Why Place Matters to My Writing

The same walls, the same faces, the same everything, day in and day out, all equates to the same writing.  With no change in environment or with no new concepts or ideas flooding in, it is hard to create something new.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can easily lead to repetition. Sure some places, cities, for instant with their hustle and bustle can lead to an ever expanding well of creative ideas.  These ideas though, would be primarily centered on city life.  This is not to say that someone living in a city can’t write about farm life, it’s more to say that with little firsthand knowledge of an environment the accuracy of the writing is in question.  Yes, one can read book after book and soak up all written ounces of a location, but there is such a difference going that route than actually breathing in a place’s air.  There are aspects of life that are so hard to put into words and even harder to completely understand even if written with accuracy.

I’ve never lived anywhere else but my split-level house on Long Island.  I’ve never travelled abroad, or been skiing, or on a cruise.  So I can’t, in a clear mind, write about them.  I can’t tell you the troubles of culture shock, what it feels to be racing down a mountain or to sail around on a slow moving boat.  I can’t tell you, because I simply do not know.  I’d just be guessing and rambling hoping someone won’t spy a hole in my tale.

But I can tell you what it’s like to live ten minutes from the water.  I can tell you all about life in suburbia, where everyone’s grasses are green and the neighborhood adults play tennis on Fridays.  There is more that I can write besides the place I’ve grown up in, I can write about experiences and places I’ve been.  I can write pages after pages of farm life, or at least what I know of farm life from my annual visits to a bed and breakfast dairy farm.  I can write how streams of light are scattered through the corn fields and how the air has an earthier scent while Long Island air is salty.  These aspects, these tiny details, ones I wouldn’t think of, that is unless I had lived it.  I can write short stories to the mountains and valleys I’ve climbed from Yosemite and Sedona to Acadia.  I know how the serenity of Yosemite and Sedona are almost destroyed by the constant flow of tourists with hiking shoes who have learned that feeding the squirrels gets them close enough to pet.  I have rejoiced in the memory of the magic of timing when give the opportunity to board the steps of the watch tower in Acadia, a privilege only open to the public a few times a month for two hours a piece.   I can only write and imagine what I know from the places and experiences I’ve lived. 

Writing, most writing, builds on the truth adjusting only aspects to create a new story.  Maybe it’s the setting that is real, or a situation, or character, but it all comes back to where you are.  It’s where you are and where you’ve been that gives you access to new ideas and new experiences.  It’s the film in your head that records your sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that allows you take pieces of it to create something new. It is with the smidgen of reality that the inspiration for a story comes alive.

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