Finding the time–and the place–to write can be a bitch.
Sometimes my everyday obligations overwhelm my work time, even my work space. Even when I’ve carved out the time to write, I find that simply being in my home office sets other tasks into motion. How can I write when there’s that stack of bills to pay on my desk (and on my bookcase and on the floor), or those manuscripts to critique or those lesson plans to finalize? It’s no better if I flee my office for my house, where there’s laundry to fold, permission slips to fill out, dinner to cook.
So this past weekend, I took myself out of my everyday surroundings: I put my ass on a very long plane ride and went away by myself to write.
My destination was an east coast cabin where I vacation every summer but where I’ve never attempted to write. I’m used to the place being filled with family and the weather being hot and languid, suitable for swimming and sunbathing and kayaking.
This time, the cabin was empty except for me and the weather turned out to be gloriously bleak with the season’s first snow. Normally, I hate snow. Hate. It. It’s pretty for a millisecond and then it’s one big hassle.
But this weekend, I welcomed it. There was only a dusting (as you can see from the picture I pieced together above), and the crisp, frigid air that accompanied it, the sun glittering on the white crust that alternated with low, rumpled clouds, made me feel as if I were in a new, transformative place. I wrote like I haven’t written in ages. I made better, different choices. I took more risks. I thought more clearly about the work that needed to be done. I was more merciless with my characters and their plights. I let them make mistakes and experience sorrows that I had been trying to protect them from.
Which got me thinking: Does our writing change depending on the setting in which we write?
It does. Sometimes, it does.
So here’s the task, which requires you to seek out several different places to write. That’s right, I want you to physically move yourself to a different location each time you write in response to one of the pictures below. Don’t feel as if you have to do this exercise in one sitting. Do it over a few days, or over the course of a few weeks. Whatever works for you. Each time you do the exercise, allow yourself 20 minutes of writing time.
Examine 1 of the pictures below and let your mind wander over possibilities about what’s happening both inside and outside the picture’s frame. What happened right before the picture was taken? What happened after?
Then write a passage in response to the picture that includes the following line: “Snow fell, masking any evidence of what they had done.”
Feel free to change the POV of the prompt (e.g., “Snow fell, masking any evidence of what I had done,” or “Snow fell, masking any evidence of what he had done.”). And remember, each time you do this exercise, change the location of where you write. Choose a quiet, secluded spot for one session, a noisy cafe for another, a park for yet another. After a few sessions, think about how both the picture you choose and the setting in which you write affect your writing. And don’t forget to leave me a note about how it goes.
Start your 20 minute timer. Ready, set, write!
Place here an image gallery shortcode (Add Media → Create Gallery) or video-page URL starting with http://