There are all sorts of anecdotes, too, about where and how writers write. Erma Bombeck would hide out in her garage to pen her humorous comments about suburban life. Hemingway wrote standing up. In order to transport a reader to a world far away, you need to be able to transport yourself above whatever surroundings support your pen and paper or your screen and keyboard.
Nevertheless, I believe a sense of place does inform creativity. Would Van Gogh’s colors been so vibrant if he hadn’t been at Arles? J.K. Rowling may have been writing on the train, but that train was in England, and Harry Potter’s world is very English. We lose ourselves in writing and art, but we can still look back and see our starting points.
These thoughts arise because I recently agreed to rent an art studio, expanding the space I’ve shared with mosaicist Lorraine Meade and allowing for my explorations into other media such as acrylic painting. One friend told me that having dedicated space for art will make a positive difference in the arts I pursue.
While I hope that is true, I wonder. Yes, I’ve done most of my mosaic work in the dedicated space of Lorraine’s studio, but that is because it is the place where the tiles and grout and tools live. When I make mosaics on North Caicos, I have done so on the front porch (where bits of glass can be swept into the gravel yard), at the kitchen table (under the ceiling fan when it’s very hot), just inside the French doors (getting light but protected from rain) and on the upstairs back porch (so that I didn’t have to move the dresser far), as well as onsite at the restaurant that commissioned a piece.
As for writing, I’ve had numerous creative spaces: my home office, yes, but also poolside on the roof, in the middle seat of an airplane, under a fish table (for shade) at Walkin’s Marina, at the picnic table on the beach in front of Lovey’s house and at that kitchen table on North Caicos. The only place that gave me trouble was a bar in Monte Llano, Dominican Republic. There, the music, street noise and Spanish conversations kept me from “hearing” an island character as I tried to write her dialogue.
I have a writer friend who discovered that her best place for writing was at the gym, where her kids could enjoy “their” activity room while she pushed keys instead of pumping iron. It worked better than trying to seal herself off in her home, still hearing the sibling arguments or an ominous silence. Focus came better when it was accompanied by guilt at not exercising!
Writing and art are both apart from the world and a part of the world. I’ve found that place can be important to the written word, but can also be overcome by it. I’m hoping that the same is true for making art.