The world is a sensual place and our job as writers is to grab those senses and give our readers enough of a taste to spark their own imaginations. How do we do that? First, by being good observers. All artists must observe the world around them in order to translate it into their art. But there is also a deep inner world, a resource full of memories, not to mention the internet; to help us imagine our world without leaving the house.
There’s also the place you write in. And here on this fine May day, there’s no better place for me then on my screened-in porch, or on the attached deck. The breeze is blowing through carrying the perfume of the lilacs at the base of the step. I can see their purple blossoms bobbing in the breeze against a backdrop of multi-shades of green. May is our reward for suffering through the pains of winter: the silence of white, the quiet absence of life now broken by this overabundance, this bursting forth. The crows are cawing, the sweet tweet of the chicadees, the incessant questioning of the mourning doves: whoo, whoo, whoo; and the twittery chatter of the rest of the bunch. When the Grosbeak shows up, then we’ll really have song! The hummingbird hovers by my window wondering when the feeders are coming.
This is where I write from this morning. The freedom of the weekend: no kids to get out the door, no work to start. But we do have work today: The lawns need to be cut, winter toys put away and summer ones brought out. It literally went from snowing to 30 degrees in one week. The transition is quick. My coffee is done and it’s time to think about those chores before the day gets too hot. But I have a blog to finish … maybe another cup.
I linger longer enjoying this sweet moment, knowing by the end of the day I’ll be exhausted by the yard work. This is where I write. I like to be alone and let my mind wander. If I’m around people I’ll feel the need to talk at some point. And I’ll always be just a bit aware in case someone should talk to me, so I can’t truly get lost in my muse, conjure the dream. I enjoy walking alone as well, my legs pumping while my brain is conjuring, working out plot and story.
Hmmm. I’m beginning to sound like a hermit. I do invite friends over for walks! And I do go out. We have to feed the well. The best outings are other artistic endeavours: music, art galleries, poetry readings. These are all food for the soul. But when I write, I write alone.
Other people enjoy the clatter of the coffee shop, the hum of conversation, or at least the hum of your neighbour’s computer. Some may eavesdrop, waiting for snippets of conversation, or picking up details of humanity as it streams by the coffee shop window. I’ve done that, for when I’m not a country person, I’ve been a city person. I’ve sat on Queen West in Toronto, watching the parade of humanity walk by. There is no shortage of information there.
There’s a wonderful book store and coffee shop just up the road from me. It’s a mill that sits on a river and the views are stunning. I’ve often thought I should go write there. The surrounding are so conducive to the writing life: books, coffee, tasty treats, even lunch. And I have taken pen to paper there while I was waiting for someone or something, but never as a regular habit.
When I backpacked across Europe and Scandanavia, or when I toured the beaches of California, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji; I wasn’t a writer back then. I was an observer and I watched the other backpackers as they wrote lengthy tomes in their diaries. Maybe I would’ve discovered more about myself in those moments if I’d written back then. But I had to live life first, take it all in. And it lives in me, I can go back and capture those images, those feelings; they’re still a part of me. Perhaps they’re fading a bit with time. But I write fiction, it’s the feeling inside I’m trying to express, not any exact moment or place, more a collage of all those experiences. As we age, can we recapture that younger innocence? Sometimes. But then other times our writing needs the wisdom of years and experience.
But there is one lesson I’ve learned from this life of writing and reading: no matter where I go, I will never be lonely or bored for I have my pen and paper, or a book by my side; constant companions on my journey. And as long as they’re with me and I can carve out a quiet space, I’ll feel right at home.
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