The Best Place to Write

What's the best place to write? Where do you write? Where do you usually write? Where do you like to write? Where do you write best? 

There are many variants of the question, and I get asked them often, but I still get a slight jolt each time I hear one of them, because each of them is based on a fundamental assumption which I disagree with: that a writer's ability to write, or the quality of their writing, is fundamentally tied to their writing space.  Popular culture often presents writers this way: Kipling at Bateman's, Dylan Thomas in his boathouse, George Bernard Shaw in his shed and Joyce in his Martello Tower.  But few writers really wrote only - or even mainly - in one place, and although some people do find benefits to having one set place to write, many more find it more useful to write whenever, and wherever, the opportunity arises. 

Personally, I would probably never get anything written if I had to wait until I could sit down in the same place as last time I wrote!  Instead, I choose to cultivate the belief that I benefit from writing in all kinds of different settings and situations.  By doing so, I get more writing in, I gather inspiration from different settings, and I learn more about what works for me as a writer. 

Today I had the opportunity to take advantage of this belief.  I had relatives visiting, and they wanted to visit the fabulous Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  It's a beautiful time of year to go, with the daffodils in full bloom. 
Our plans could easily have resulted in a writing-free day, but I opted to tuck my notebook in my bag in the hopes of finding a few minutes free time, and sure enough, I managed to fit in two haikus (inspired by artworks in the gallery) and even a snippet of one of my back-burner projects (things I'm exploring with a view to developing them properly later, although they're not a priority at the moment): a vampire story with the working title 'Beneath'. 

I've written before about how much I like writing haiku, and I find them a particularly effective way of capturing my responses to artworks. I'm often confused by modern art - this piece variously evoked a shell, an eardrum or some sort of alien lifeform, and I've tried to compress all of those concepts into my short poem:

unnatural hybrid
an image in your shell-like
yellow Nautilus

Similarly, these columns could be weathered pillars of rock or some kind of organic life form, and maybe they're also a metaphor for... well... something.

standing like Titans
uneroded pillars of
creative spirit

It's wonderful to see the huge sculptures in their outdoor settings, but I also enjoyed seeing smaller works by Tony Cragg, collected together with some works-in-progress drawings which gave a real insight into the sculptor's thought processes.  Seeing art in what others might consider a pile of raw materials or even just junk made me think about how we determine value, and in the context of my vampire story, I wondered how one's perceptions of worth might change after living through a number of eras with very different priorities.  This led to writing a brief dialogue of which my favourite line is:

"Live long enough and you learn that everything has a value to someone."

I'm sure I'll continue to find inspiration in the collection of images I've brought away from the Sculpture Park (and I hope the lovely people there won't mind me having posted a few of them here - the signs say it's OK to take photos for personal use, and there's not much more personal than inspiration).  And I've enjoyed the reminder of one of my favourite affirmations: "Wherever I am is the perfect place to write."


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