Tuesday, February 21, 2006

THE BEST PLACE TO WRITE


home-working hard
Originally uploaded by phitar.

Probably like many of you out there, I've been searching for it for years. The perfectly verdant landscape or unsullied ocean view that will make my heart swell with inspiration, the mythical country -- or maybe just a town or a mysteriously shadowed street that offers the perfect balance of quiet and stimulation. If I could only find the right place to set up my computer, or just pull out those ancient artifacts known as pen and paper, all the words that have accumulated inside me, all the visions, the emotion, the stinging insights, would come pouring forth almost effortlessly. At least, that's how the theory goes.

To that end, I once considered moving back to the mother country, where undoubtedly the writerly impulse slipped into my genes as stealthily as my melancholic temperament or my fondness for black beer. Yes, I could go back to Ireland, the country my malnourished ancestors fled, rent a little cottage in the countryside, drink Guiness and wait for the golden river of prose to start flowing.

Then there was what my husband refers to as my "Montana phase". After reading about a writer who claimed that there was something about the big sky that set his words free, I became a woman obsessed. Not only did I read my way through every Montana novel ever written, I collected an impressive collection of travel brochures as well. Eventually, however, my local travel agent realized she was dealing with a professional daydreamer, and stopped taking my calls.

And don't think the news that a new literary community, similar to the one that nurtured Hemingway and Fitzgerald, not to mention Henry Miller and Anais Nin, was forming in Prague a few years ago passed me by. I even checked some foreign language
tapes out of the library. By day, I listened to them in the background as I struggled to write in my clearly uninspiring environment; and over dinner, I tried out a few of the exotic words I'd absorbed by osmosis on my long suffering family. After three months of "study," all I had to show for it was a huge fine at the library, and the ability to say, "Sorry, I don't speak Czech" with a very impressive accent. The day the librarian informed me that I had to either pay my fine or be shut off from my book supply, was the day the Prague phase ended.

Of course, I'm more mature now.When it comes to getting words on paper, I know that the answer to my resistance lies within myself. From experience, I've learned that the best place to write, like the best place to fall in love, or to pray, or to make a friend, is right where you are. Right now.

30 comments:

rdl said...

Amen sister! another great post!

marja-leena said...

Beautiful and inspiring post, Patry, even for a visual artist!

Sharon Hurlbut said...

Absolutely, Patry! And I'd add, I'm a little worried about what will happen when my children are no longer underfoot, no longer requiring such constant attention from me. I believe that knowing my writing time is extremely limited forces me to become much more focused than I would be if I had all the time in the world. Of course, that doesn't stop me from grousing about my lack of writing 'space.'

colleen said...

Anywhere I can see a sunset. Preferably at the ocean. But really many time while driving or doing anything. I even have to take scrap paper and pen when I walk to the mailbox.

Tarakuanyin said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm Irish, so the Irish connection resonated with me. To black beer, melancholy moods, and thatched cottages on drizzly days.

Michael said...

A couple days ago, I paraphrased George Bernard Shaw in a post on my blog. I love this quote: The English gave the Irish the language, and the Irish showed them how to use it.
May Montana bloom forever in your heart.

ainelivia said...

"I know that the answer to my resistance lies withing myself". The truest words well spoken.

The Irish connection; that's amazing, I love walking on dull grey drizzily days more than any other, that's the atmosphere that inspires me. Sunny days just don't do it.

have memed you see my latest post.

colleen said...

I'm thinking of Georgia O'Keefe. She believed living in the Southwest opened up her art.

Patry, I've collected some of the old country names I was telling you about....and linked to you today in an entry, since your post spurred mine.

Becca said...

Your Czech period made me laugh out loud ... I can completely identify!

I vote for the home country ... alone with Guinness and oysters in O'Dowd's pub in Roundstone in the back, dark snug ... surely the quintessential writer's lair.

kate said...

. . . gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous . . . oh yes :)

MB said...

Being pretty dang close to Montana, I sympathize. Did I just use the word dang? How Idaho of me.

For me, it has more to do with the quiet and solitude I need to focus inward. But recent contact with the good earth in some form, and with other good writing, is always helpful. Of course, it's true those are helpful for more than writing. ;-)

liz elayne said...

this speaks right to something i have been thinking about this week (especially because of the artist way) - what blocks me and why i am addicted to these things that block me. like watching bad tv, or spending hours reading blogs when i could be writing on mine or in my journal or (gasp!) writing just to write. it sometimes seems easier to create an excuse then to own the fact that it is all within me already. i love this image of you thinking of new places to live so you can find inspiration for writing, only to realize that you are right where you need to be.

Laini Taylor said...

Fun post, Patry! I love to mock the romantic writer in myself, too, and my wild whim-swings. I can so relate. There MUST be some perfect place, no? I have had cabin fantasies forever, dreams of a remote place, lovely, quiet, where I can cross-country ski to the store in the winter and canoe to it in the summer (mind, I've cross-country skied once in my life, and canoed maybe twice), and where I can be even more untroubled than I already am. And the Prague stage! Alexandra and I were THIS close to moving there together for a summer about eight years ago when she decided to do Peace Corps instead and I went to Italy. Jim and I went to Prague last year though for a short trip (my second there) and it was so magnificent!
I also have to add I read about a writer once who insisted he couldn't have a view from his office or he'd just stare out it all the time. All romance aside, that's what I need, too. Give me an orderly place with as little as possible to distract me - no magazines lying around, no sunsets, not even any crows outside the window being fascinating! Just me and my brain.

Sky said...

Darn, I thought you might actually consider moving to Seattle! ;)

Did you ever have a New England phase? That was always my dream, but I was never brave enough to face the winters! That is why I love this gorgeous, temperate place!

EATING POETRY said...

I agree with you 100%. It's when you finally stop trying, and invite the inspiration in when it visits you, even if it's 2 in the morning and you just want to sleep.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Beautiful, Patry. Joyce Carol Oates wrote many of her early novels on a rickety kitchen table -- although come to think of it, I can't stand her work. Hmm, maybe a Greek island wouldn't be so bad after all...

Fred Garber said...

I think a lot of the words come from some place up in the sky so it is a good idea to have some fresh air where you are writing. An open window is good. An open door is good. A screen is a good thing to have on the window or door because it will filter out a lot of the bigger words.
Then you will make less spelling errors.

kent.. said...

actually, since I've started blogging, one thing I've noticed that helps me get started is just writing something, even if I just force it. The act of writing and then looking at that sentence, leads me onto another, and then another. And in the end, I often end up deleting that first line that got me rolling, as it no longer fits in the stream of words that follows. But maybe that's just me.

Marilyn said...

Boy, I can really relate to this post. I've been through so many phases...thinking that PLACE is the answer. I once thought staring out at the Caribbean would be the prompt/inspiration I needed...until I could see it from my living room and I still didn't feel the magic wand waving over me. It's both the best, and worst...ha!, realization to finally come to grips that it's all internal. Place can enhance, but ultimately any place can inspire if WE feel inspired.

P.S. I went through a Montana phase, too.

Patry Francis said...

r: thanks

marja-leena: I think place would be even more important to a visual artist.

sharon: For all my searching, I wrote my novel in a corner of my bedroom on an old blue table salvaged from the dump.

colleen: love that scrap of paper you take to the mailbox. You never know when you will miss something!

tarakuayin: I'm lifting my glass!

Michael: What a great quote from GBS! Thank you.

ainelivia: I did that meme, but I'm sure I could come up with five more weird things if you'd like.

becca: You've now given me a new mission in life: I've got to see O'Dowd's--which is actually a variation of my birth name.

kate: thanks for the link.

mb: Now I know the secret of all your splendid poetry. It's Idaho! Maybe I should consider...

liz elayne: You said it. I used to wonder how the 19th century writers got so much work done (all those 800 page novels) without computers or even typewriters. But they also didn't have all these blogs to read or the infinite number of distractions that we have.

laini: I think you've re-ignited the Prague obsession.

Sky: New England? Every word I've ever written has been penned there-- or I should say here. And "thanks" to global warming, it's really not that cold any more. I WILL get to Seattle though--if only for a visit.

Eating Poetry: Oh yes. Two in the morning and totally exhausted is often a great writing time for me. The house is quiet, and besides, what else is an insomniac to do?

RLC: I'm sure the uber-prolific JOyce Carol Oates could--and probably has written anywhere, including standing up in her sleep. And I have to disagree with you on her work. Several of her books are favorites. Have you read Because it is Bitter, Because it is my heart? Then again,when it comes to literary taste, usually you either like an author or you don't.


fred: The sky! Exactly! But that's the kind of thinking that made me want to move to Montana where rumor has it, the sky is bigger than it is here.

kent: a new face! Welcome! I agree with your comment. In fact, sometimes when I don't intend to write much is when I feel most expansive. In my "hot potato" post, for instance, I staggered from the couch with a 102 fever, intending to write simply 'I'm sick. See you when I'm better.' But because I wasn't demanding anymore, I found myself rambling on effortlessly. Go figure.

Marilyn: We must have read the same Montana article...As far as the Carribbean goes, its beauty is certainly inspiring, but I once spent a month in St. Croix. It was so hot and lovely my bones turned to liquid, and the idea of lifting a pen was out of the question.

Anne Bauer said...

I live in Montana - come visit anytime!

Patry Francis said...

anne: how very gracious of you! Thanks. Now that I know someone who lives in Montana, I can ask: Is the mystique true? Is it particularly conducive to writing?

leslee said...

I think you're right about righting where you are. On the other hand, no matter where you are if you're always there it tends to get stale. You get in a rut, fall prey to bad habits, etc. I think it's just helpful to go someplace else every once in awhile - whether on vacation (preferably a long one, with or without ample time to write) or just taking your notebook with you to a cafe somewhere periodically. I think things need to get shaken up once in awhile to see life with fresh eyes.

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Tea said...

You write beautifully. I would like to write. Hmmmm, you told me the place at the end of your entry. Love the way you shape words.

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