Jackie, a friend of mine, has been trying to write a book about her stories and her love of birds, for two years. She is a teacher, so it is difficult during the school year for her to find the time. But, now that summer is here, she still finds the thought of the whole writing thing, difficult. “I don’t feel safe around my own home,” she told me. No one is being cruel to her or stopping her. The thing is; her backyard boarders on a school yard and despite a high wall, many balls from the adjacent playground have come flying through her kitchen window or into her backyard over the years. It has tried her nerves and she has not been able to get the school district to do anything about it. “It’s not that you can’t write,” I said. “It’s that you need a safe place to write.”
As writers, we all need our safe place. Stress and distractions are not compatible with creativity, or even our ability to think. So, if this is part of your problem, you need to find your safe place. When I began writing poetry at sixteen years of age and wanted to get away from my noisy rambunctious brothers, I would take a walk into the woods across our street, sit down at the base of a nice tree with my writing tablet and just write. The wind rustling through the leaves sounded a bit like the waves washing on a sandy shore. The sound was soothing, and so my words flowed like water because I felt safe and calm. Today, I write at my antique desk in my house built in 1904 and gaze out my window through lace curtains at the Hummingbirds at my feeder. Usually, my three cats, Hannah, Lucy and Oscar sleep on the quilted bed next to an antique night stand that was in my grandmother’s room when she was a teenager. I even have the black and white photo of what her room looked like then. It is amazing and inspirational to me. She was an artist.
I’ve also written words in my head riding home on the subway in New York City, on a ferry going from San Francisco to Larkspur Landing, and driving across the countryside in East Texas. Once, I wrote all the table of contents to a book in my head, as I was listening to all the new mothers in a parent support group meeting, talking about how to take care of their babies and still have time for their husbands. Two years later, my book was published.
So, whether you write standing up, as Ernest Hemingway did, or in the bathtub as Benjamin Franklin used to do, it’s all a matter of finding your place to write. As I understand it, Virginia Woolf wrote her stories in a storage room in a cozy armchair, Gertrude Stein wrote in the driver’s seat of her Model T Ford and Maya Angelou wrote in a hotel room after all the pictures were taken down so she would not be distracted. George Bernard Shaw wrote in a white room with a clean white desk next to a small window in a small cottage, I think. He was known to say: “People bother me. I came here to hide from them.” And, D.H. Lawrence, who loved the outdoors and would write beneath a pine tree, is quoted as saying: “The trees are like living company.”
I really hope my friend can find her safe, peaceful place and write her book. If trees are to your liking, be among the trees, or on a beach, or in a small quiet room with a view. It doesn’t matter, because once you begin writing, you can be anywhere you like.
©Anne Mount 2015