Drunk At First Sight Blogfest if you haven't already. And of course check back in the morning to read all the great fiction.
Now, on to the business of the day. I am still relatively new to the writing game, and so every day I learn something new about my fiction process and pick up tips and tricks to continue to try to cultivate my creativity and to keep pushing out content--regardless of distractions. My recent journey back to the United States, a trip that essentially returned me to a life and lifestyle I stepped out of a year ago, has got me to thinking about place and it's importance in my writing process. I've always had a strong affinity for different kinds of places, and have gathered--not necessarily consciously, but through self-observation after the fact--that my creativity ebbs and flows based on my geographic location.
When you get right down to it, my writing setup in Baghdad was pretty simple. We lived two to a room in units called CHU's (Containerized Housing Units--gotta love those acronyms), basically sheet metal single-wides. Lights. Electric outlets. Rudimentary furniture. Not much else.
My writing routine involved getting up about two-hours before work, tip-toeing around so as not to wake the room-mate, making a short walk to other side of the compound and back for coffee, then getting down to business. Fiction attack position was in bed, in the dark, laptop on my laptop, typing away. I wrote until time to hit the showers, shave, and head off to start my "normal" workday.
Occasionally I got time to write mid-afternoon, and then again late in the evening. If given the choice, I turned the lights off regardless of the time of day, because I found it easier to focus without the pale fluorescent glow of the overheads. I could make it work with lights on or at other locations if I had to, but I certainly got down a better line in my dark little cubby with no distractions.
And that's the key. Though my surroundings were rather spartan, they were also remarkably free of distractions.
At the house in Corpus Christi where I am now, I am learning that the lack of distraction in Baghdad was indeed a luxury. Not that I don't enjoy hanging out with Furnace Girl and Muffin--on the contrary, it's the allure of spending an hour watching TV or going out to dinner that gives these distractions their power. With jet lag and the new rhythm of life, it's been hard to get back to my early morning routine. Also, since we are renting, finding a space in the house that I can call my own, where I can settle down and get to work, has been a challenge.
When I think about writing and place, I remember a story one of my college English professors told about Jose Luis Borges, who taught for several years at the University of Texas at Austin--my Alma mater. Borges, of course, was a brilliant fictionist (if you've not read Dream Tigers, I suggest you get thee to an Amazon or a Barnes and Noble and purchase a copy post-haste), but beyond all the mirrors, labyrinths and libraries that Borges evokes on the page, it was one of Borges' comments reported by that professor that has stuck with me the longest: Borges said he liked Austin. He dreamed well there. And if you have read Borges, you know that dreams are a big part of his fiction.
That idea of the importance of place has always stuck with me. I wonder now what effect this new place and lifestyle and all that comes with it will have on my fiction. During my travels, certain cities have historically gotten my creative juices flowing. Dublin is hands down the best place for me creatively. I think it's because it feels foreign and exotic and like home at the same time (my father's family is from Ireland and I've visited Dublin a dozen or so times over the years). New York--not surprisingly--is another inspirational place, although I've only visited there a handfull of times. I remember the last time we went to visit friends, I quite literally had a voice in my head as we walked all over town telling me there was a story around every corner. Corny, yes, but true.
I also find that specific kinds of places can overturn a creative stone or two. Everyone knows that showers, exercise time, and that last few minutes right before falling asleep can be virtual creative goldmines, but I also get some of my best story ideas in other locations like airports, bus and train stations, museums and churches.
What about you? What kinds of places inspire and influence your writing? If there was one thing you could change about the location where you currently write, what would it be?
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