As a side note to my post last week on the cafes I have killed, I wanted to add one more thing about writing locations. It struck me that in a country with so much beauty, I have latched onto the ugliest locations in which to do my writing.
It seems that beauty doesn’t really work for me, at least while I’m writing. It’s wonderful to look at, wonderful to get inspiration from, but it seems I prefer to get that inspiration before I sit down to write. When I’m writing, all I want to look at is the computer screen.
I’ve tried sitting on the beach in the shade of a coconut tree with pen and paper in hand, but it’s just too bloody idyllic. I end up just looking out to sea, falling asleep, or getting up and going for a swim. Similarly with those wonderful beachfront cafes – they don’t work for me. They also tend to be busy and popular, negating one of my main criteria for writing locations.
I think I shun beauty because writing involves entering a different world. Although I’m living in Barbados, I don’t feel as if I know it well enough yet to write about it. So the novel I’m working on is set mostly in southern England, as are most of the short stories I work on in-between. I need to enter that world, and when I look out at a view like this, it’s difficult.
Even if I were writing about Barbados, I think too much beauty would still be a distraction from the world my characters inhabit. So that’s why I seek out less spectacular locations. They help me enter a fictional world instead of being mesmerised by the one in front of my eyes.
They don’t have to be ugly – just not too beautiful. The one from my apartment works too.
It’s nice to look out over, and I love the brightness and the sun and the colours, but it’s not spectacular enough to distract me. (Sorry about the weird effect from the insect screen!)
The one from my London flat used to work too – very different, but also nice in its own way, without being beautiful.
I don’t have any photos of my old writing desk in New York, but I remember it used to face a blank wall. The point is that, when it comes to writing, too much beauty can be distracting. You need to think myself into the world of your characters, and that means temporarily vacating the world in front of your eyes. The perfect view can stop you from doing that.
Do you have a preferred location for writing or other creative work? Do you like to look out over beauty, or a blank wall, or something else?