Escape Writing

If you write and have a Twitter account (I know that my one reader–hi, mom!–does not have a Twitter account so I have to briefly explain), you’ve probably seen tweets by others in the writing community like “post a gif (or picture) of your ideal writing space.” I’ll save my writer-gif criticism for a different blog post, but the comments of those tweets are usually filled with gifs and pictures of impossibly perfect cafes and beautiful landscapes that are similar to the one below.

Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Yes, I took this photo.

That’s Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, for those of you who skipped the picture caption. It’s beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. Stunning. Inspiring. A description using all of those words and their thesaurus results couldn’t do the view justice. But is it my ideal place to write? Heck no. If you look at that picture and think, “Wow, I gotta get a pen and a notebook out there and create a story,” then you’re not being honest with yourself.

It took a 1.8 mile hike up a mountain to an elevation of 10,110 feet (I googled that) to get that view. And I was with my family, i.e. my wife, our two daughters (ages 6 and 3), my parents (hi again, mom!), and my brother and his wife. The air was thin; it was hard to breathe. I was exhausted, a little dizzy, and probably not thinking straight. I loved the view and the hike was worth it. But there was no way I was stopping to say to the rest of my group, “Do you all mind waiting for me to sit on this hard rock so I can selfishly write a piece of flash fiction that I’ll eventually scrap because I’m just really inspired from this view right now? Oh, I know I’m just going to be staring at a blank page for the next 30 minutes instead of the view of the mountains directly in front of me but this is something I really need to do. Also, that lake water is as cold as the Rockies because, of course, this is the Rockies, so do your best to keep my kids from going in the lake, because that’s what they will naturally want to do, without any help from me for I will be gasping for air on this uncomfortable boulder, trying to write something while constantly being interrupted by my body’s natural reflex to swat at mosquitoes. Okay? Thanks.”

No, my ideal writing space is a terrible, but safe, place. It’s my desk at work at lunch time. A place surrounded by windowless walls and the absence of any motivating decor. It’s a dark, uninspiring basement. It’s somewhere my internal voice screams, “Oh my gosh, this place is awful and/or boring. You have to get out of here. But you can’t right now because you are working or you’re stuck at home while your kids are in bed. You’ve got to think of something creative; you’ve got to pretend you’re not here; you’ve got to get lost in another world.”

Stables just outside Rocky Mountain National Park. Beautiful. But not my ideal writing place, for I am a city boy who wouldn’t be able to get past the distracting smell of manure to write anything that wouldn’t be…manure. That’s a criticism of me and my writing talents and habits, not the smell of manure. When I smell it, I want to ride a horse or feed a goat or pet a dog, not write a blog post.

The picture below is also not an ideal place to work on a manuscript. It’s an ideal place to have a coffee or drink some water or a beer or whatever liquid you prefer. It’s a place to take in the beauty of the natural surrounding and listen to the water as it flows through rocks down the mountainside while you contemplate your insignificance with the world. A place like the one below is a spot to think about how you are here in this world, how you don’t really matter in the big scheme of the universe but at the same time you do matter because you get to be at that spot, you get to be here on this planet and you get to have this life and move through these experiences. Keep the pen and notebook in your backpack and let your body, mind, and being soak it all in while you can.

Listen to the water. Breathe the mountain air. Your notebook will be there for you when you return to your regular, drab surroundings.

So now that I’m back home and riding the same boring routine again (instead of a horse), it’s time to get back to work and escape my surroundings with some creative thought and writing. And I’m not going to show you my ideal writing place in pictures and gifs. Rather, I’ll show you pictures from my awesome trip to Rocky Mountain National Park so you feel jealous and angry that you didn’t get to see the fantastic views that I saw. Then perhaps you’ll use that jealousy and anger to inspire you to write your way out of those feelings. Then you’ll send me what you wrote to share it and thank me for giving you the inspiration to put an impressive piece of work together. You’re welcome.

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