Sunday, 3 August 2014

Are You a Town or Country Writer? - Heather Dyer

Writers are always looking for things to enhance our creative output. We worry about whether we write best early in the morning or late at night; we fret about whether reading other novels while working on our own is inspiring or distracting; we deliberate over getting our admin out of the way first, or leaving it till afterwards... But what about location? Which is more inspiring - the city or the countryside?
© wOOkie

My writer friend loves the garret. She loves the idea of an eyrie high above the city, far enough away from the madding crowds that she feels slightly apart, yet aware that all of life is unfolding in the streets below. She feels it’s important to be able to observe things from a distance – to witness the rest of life passing by. My friend can’t imagine anything worse than writing in the countryside. Nothing happens there, she says.

© Tony Atkin
But perhaps you just need to look a little closer. I spent some time writing from a clapped-out static caravan that was quietly disintegrating in a field of weeds. There was certainly a loneliness about it. But once the quiet descends it becomes apparent that life is ever-changing here, too.

In my caravan there were spiders everywhere. The nettles grew tall, right up to the window sills, and the grass around the deck was chest-high and thrumming with insect life. At night I stood outside and saw a million stars in the huge sky and I began to be aware of life passing on both a very small and a very large scale.

Perhaps both the city and the countryside can offer the same sort of inspiration - and the same opportunity to sit slightly apart from life a little, to observe it. Perhaps it’s this awareness of the impermanence of life that inspires us to want to capture some of it and keep it safe between the pages of a book, like a pressed flower.


Dianne Hofmeyr said...

I suppose the urge to write takes place when you're in a certain state of mind. There's a certain urgency in free writing that comes from deep inside.
I'm not a coffee shop writer but I've written an entire manuscript on a beach and I live in the heart of London and write in a very cramped space shared with my husband. Is my writing cramped as a result... ? not sure but I think wide spaces give a certain freedom to be expansive. But have you ever been in a space that's almost too big, too majestic where you are literally left without words... like standing at the edge of a deep canyon or next to the Victoria Falls?

Heather Dyer said...

On the beach?! That's impressive. I know absolutely what you mean about big, awesome spaces though.