Where do you live? Where do you write? What role does setting play in how you get your work done?
Where I live plays such a crucial role in what I can write. In my life, as I take the time to consider, I have written more (perhaps not better work but more work) at times when I surrounded by the animal and plant parts of nature, not the human part. I can work anywhere if I have to, but I seem to be more productive when I’m less distracted by humanity.
This pans out in my reading, too. One of my favorite books is Madeline L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet, which details her writing practice on the farm that she and her husband raised their children on. She says, in describing her “secret place” away from her house:
The burning bush: somehow I visualize it as much like one of these blueberry bushes. The bush burned, was alive with flame and was not consumed. Why? Isn’t it because, as a bush, it was perfect? It was exactly as a bush is meant to be. A bush certainly doesn’t have the opportunity for prideful and selfish choices, for self-destruction, that we human beings do. It is. It is a pure example of ontology. Ecology-ontology-the words fascinate me. Ontology is one of my son-in-law’s favorite words . . . Ontology: the word about the essence of things; the word about being.
I go to the brook because I get out of being, out of the essential. So I’m not like the bush, then. I put all my prickliness, selfishness, in-turnedness, onto my isness; we all tend to, and when we burn, this part of us is consumed. When I go past the tallest blueberry bush, where my twine is tied to one of the branches, I think that the part of us that has to be burned away is something like the deadwood in the bush; it has to go, to be burned in the terrible fire of reality, until there is nothing left but our ontological selves; what we are meant to be.
I go to the brook and my tensions and frustrations are lost as I spend a happy hour sitting right in the water and trying to clear it of the clogging debris left by a fallen tree.
These days I feel like I have a lot to unclog – a lot of debris jamming up my words. I suspect many of us feel this way. The question is what do we do about it. Me – I’m continuing to take it slow; I’m getting away today, every day if I can, into trees, and flowing water; I’m learning to be with myself.
P.S. On another writing-related note, check out this great post about the way that drugs/alcohol inspire/clog up writers.
P.P.S. I had the privilege of seeing Barack Obama speak yesterday afternoon in Lancaster, PA. He didn’t say anything remarkably new, but it was really nice to be with people who were excited to make things better – he brings that out. I can’t remember ever being excited about a presidential candidate, and I am.