Friday, March 25, 2011

What Are You Lookin' At?

By Deborah Sharp

Does where you write make a difference? Well, it definitely would if you were plopped in close proximity to the 'gator hole pictured, left. Nothing like a little incentive to meet your deadline, right?

But, in general, are you picky about your surroundings when you sit down to write? I am. I envy authors who can shut themselves into a windowless room and hammer away at their masterpiece. I know I'm supposed to be creating a physical world for my characters. It shouldn't matter to my imagination where I am or what I see as I do that. But it does.

My Mace Bauer Mysteries are set in the outdoors in Florida. Hence the 'gators. Just a little toothy research. I don't necessarily need to be sitting in the swamp to write about the swamp, but I do like to write outdoors. I like to feel the warmth of the sun; hear the breeze rustling through the trees. I can usually accommodate this need to not be cooped up because of Florida's weather, and because I do my first drafts in longhand, then polish on the computer. Yep, I'm a proud Luddite. It's easy to pop my journal or a notebook into my backpack and leave the house for open spaces.

As I scribbled out version one of this post (Kids: ''Scribbling'' is what scribes did before laptops and netbooks), I absorbed the atmosphere of one of my favorite writing spots in Fort Lauderdale. It's a garden behind the Unity Church, where I park myself at an outdoor table under a shady gazebo. Leaves from a Seagrape, as big as salad plates, flutter to the ground. The afternoon sun dapples through the branches of a Gumbo Limbo. Florida natives call it the Tourist Tree, because its peeling bark is a sunburn-like red.

I'm not a member. Yet no one at the church has ever questioned this middle-aged woman who arrives on a bicycle, slides out her notebook, and gets lost in writing for a couple of hours. When I get stuck, I wander around the garden and look at wooden sculptures with colorful prisms and inspirational passages. I'm not particularly religious, but something always manages to strike me.

Like this one: Divine imagination is awakened in me

And indeed it is, outside.

So, how about you? Where do you like to write? What do you like to see when you write?


Charmaine Clancy said...

I wish I liked writing in my classroom while the kids are noisily working on projects, but alas, my best spot is at a desk with no noise and everything tidy around me.

Deborah Sharp said...

Hi, Charmaine. I'm with you on not being able to write with noisy kids around. More distracting than hearing gators grunting!

Lois Winston said...

Deborah, I've never understood how some people can write in crowded, noisy coffee shops. Apparently JK Rowling wrote most of the Harry Potter books in such a setting, and I know lots of authors who go to their local coffee shop to write. I'd never be able to concentrate. I have trouble writing when anyone else is in the house!

Alan Orloff said...

I usually write in my stuff, messy, depressing office bedroom. I think I should take your cue and find a nice place outside to write!

Darrell James said...

I've written at least three novels and about thrity short stories with a laptop, sitting on the front seat of my pick-up, in the shaded parking lot of a Starbucks. I like that I can see people and life going on around me, but the vehicle offers the privacy from the noise and disruption.

Kerry said...

I write on deadline. Once, I wrote my news story on a ripped brown paper bag. No crayon -- but if I had one, I would have used one!

Keith Raffel said...

I used to write anywhere. Now the only place that works for me is the local cafe where they stock a favorite brand of tea just for me.

P.S. My grandmother used to tell me you're as young as you feel. Given that, who's the middle-aged woman you're talking about?

Julia Buckley said...

Deborah, I write in a non-picturesque office, but your description of your routine has made me envious (applause for your excellent descriptive writing) and longing for warmer weather. It's still in the 30s here.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I can just picture you there, scribbling away! I don't often get the opportunity to write outside (I live in Wisconsin, so my season is a bit more limited than yours), but I love to.

I also love writing where a book is set. I just spent another very quiet week holed up writing, at an inn where I could look out the window and see the place I'm writing about.

Deborah Sharp said...

Hi, Kathleen: Is this Old World Wisconsin you're overlooking?
Lois: I like quiet, too, but occasionally have written at a riverfront pub (after a couple beers, my stuff looks better and better!)
Alan: Let's start a movement: Writers on the Outside.
Darrell: LOVE that you write in a pick-up! You sure you're not from down around Himmarshee, Fla ;-) ?
Keith, sad to say ... Middle-aged and past.
Kerry: I've actually seen you using crayons!
Julia: A Chicago cousin arrived here in Fla. for a visit yesterday; she's in shorts, telecommuting from my mama's back porch!

Alice Loweecey said...

We used to go on vacation every year to Fern Resort up in Orillia, Ontario. Every day for a week I'd spend a couple of hours writing by a calm, gorgeous lake, basking in the sun, and watching cute little kids fish.

It's my best writing spot ever.

However, I also write very easily in crowded, noisy places--soccer games, coffee shops, etc. My brain tunes things out quite nicely. *pets brain*

Deborah Sharp said...

Alice, that lake sounds heavenly! Maybe if I am cooped up inside, I can think of your lake.

Anonymous said...

I do nearly all of my writing at the dining room table, in the wee small hours of the morning. I have found, however, that when I move to some other venue, for example the library, to review my writing, I find all sorts of typos and other mistakes that completely escaped me in my usual place. I think setting has a number of subtle influences on the creative mind.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

If I go outside, I get lulled into a tranquil state and can't think, let alone write. Sitting on my poolside patio will do the trick. However, I can best concentrate in my home office surrounded by my books and research notes with the computer in front of me.