If you happen to be a writer, you are missing out if you are not reading Ellen Vrana’s blog. It is simply beautiful, and yet relatable. In other words, it makes me want to run off to London. In this particular post, she addresses an issue that I’ve thought about quite a bit lately: How place affects the creative process. After Christmas, I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of my local writer friends for lunch. Our conversation made me realize that I am in a place where I need to seek out new places to write. One’s surroundings affect the writing process, and I need to do something new.
As a student, I seemed to naturally seek out places to study that both feed my creativity and allow me to focus on the tasks at hand. As an undergrad at Michigan State, I absolutely had the best of both worlds. When I needed creativity and wanted to dream, I could head over to the women’s resource room in the MSU Union. It is simply a large, beautiful room set aside for women to study in silence. Occupying one corner of the Union building, its windows overlook the approach to Beaumont Tower and some of the most beautiful parts of MSU’s gorgeous campus. Best of all, if I needed a change, the energy of the rest of the building was just outside the door, the type of energy that can only be found on a bustling college campus. If I needed to concentrate on simply getting a project completed, there was always the business library. No distracting beautiful views, just a quiet cubicle that allowed me to shut out the rest of the world while I worked, without all of the social aspects of MSU’s main library.
Today, as I finish up my second experience as an undergraduate student, I find myself doing the same thing. There are places on both SVSU and Delta College’s campuses, their libraries, where I know I can go when I need to concentrate wholeheartedly on the task at hand. What is lacking is a writing space where I can feed off of the energy. This is precisely why I would feel right at home living near a college or university. Instead, I live in the smallest city in Michigan. There are no true coffee shops where I could spend an afternoon just watching people and maybe write a word or two. There are no places to really just spend time alone in public. In my quest to find such a space, I’ve tried two small local libraries. Unfortunately, they are too quiet for my taste, and they are not particularly comfortable. If I want that much silence, I might as well be comfortable at home.
As I spend this year concentrating on the very idea of home, developing my own creative writing process is just as much part of my concept of home as my bedroom. If I am ever going to succeed as a writer, I need to explore my creative process and how physical space affects it. Given that I live in such a rural area, I may have to get creative. Without internet access, such a task would become much more difficult. Fortunately, I also draw a lot of my inspiration from music as well. I would be lost without my playlists.
What Ellen does so well in her blog post is explain the difference between inspiration as a writer and the actual physical task of writing. Maybe it is because of our shared heritage (her father and my mother are first cousins), but I can imagine her writing process working well for me too. I can relate to drawing inspiration from experiences in the city and writing in the country. This is why I renewed my passport this summer even though I have no plans to travel at the moment. Much of my inspiration has always been drawn from the very idea of travel, of being able to reinvent oneself and start over. The idea of having my passport handy is enough. Throughout all of my study abroad experiences at Michigan State, I wanted desperately to capture it all in writing. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I planned, although there were a few exceptions during my time in Spain. Quite simply, there was too much to take in, too much going on to capture it well. Now that I have the desire, time, and space to write, the inspiration isn’t as immediate. Hopefully I’ll be able to find what works for me in 2016.