Friday, February 03, 2012

Geographic Cures

"Shut up about ideal conditions. I am tired of hearing myself whine about needing a writing shed—and, frankly, I'm tired of hearing you whine about it too." - Patti Digh in a blog article on Sheila Bender's website

In 1996, I attended my first writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg. By June of 1997, I had convinced my adventurous husband that we should put our house on the market and move to Taos, New Mexico so I could study with Natalie year-round. Now, mind you, Natalie didn't have any kind of plan for people to study with her year-round, but I thought, if I just got out of Ohio, I could write. I mean, the sun! The moutains! The fresh, high-altitude air! What's not to love about a tiny art town in the mountains of New Mexico? Well, one day I intend to write a book answering that question, but suffice it to say, when we moved, I brought my chronic depression and poor writing habits along.

Fast forward three years. The house in Taos was sold and we were back in central Ohio. Hubby would have preferred California or Hawaii, but I was convinced only Ohio would do. And guess what? Writing wasn't any easier back in Ohio.

Don't get me wrong. I benefit from a good change of scenery every once in awhile, especially if said change of scenery lacks internet connection. But I don't kid myself that a geographic cure will fix the problem. Writers need to be able to write when it's time to write no matter where they find themselves. For several years the best writing spot was whatever doctor's office waiting room I found myself in as I accompanied my mother on her visits to a variety of physicians. I'd take earplugs or headphones and my laptop. I'd tune out the other patients and caregivers and write. I didn't have a choice. I was getting my M.F.A. and the deadlines weren't flexible!

The moral of the story was put eloquently in the blog article quoted above. Wherever you go, there you are. If you can't write in your three-bedroom ranch in central Ohio, chances are you won't be able to write in the mountains of New Mexico.

What about you? Have you ever attempted a geographic cure? Have you ever been lured into the notion that "ideal conditions" could solve your woes? As always, I'd love to hear about it.

14 comments:

Lisa B said...

So writing is like running? You do it regardless of if you "feel" like it or not? Regardless of the snow and ice? Or heat and humidity? I like it!

Nita said...

@Lisa B - Exactly! Great metaphor.

Anne Hamilton said...

Or like the US Postal Service, nor rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night, etc., before they started going postal.

Nita said...

@Anne - Hysterical and true!

Tanja said...

You're so right about good writing habits. In such places as the mountains of NM, though, excuses sound more plausible, claims of research sound more logical and time seems so very different than in my own backyard. -- T.

Laura Slifka said...

Your blog piece couldn't have come at a better time. Major synchronicity for me today. "Thank you, Nita!" :-)

Nita said...

@Tanja - I am easily fooled into lounging when I should be writing regardless of whether I'm in New Mexico or Ohio!!!

@Laura - Glad to be of service!

Sherry Hardage said...

I'm in Mexico, writing a book on Mexico, mostly writing about Mexico on a blog, making NO progress on the book.....too many funner things to do here. Sigh. I know exactly what you mean by a geographic cure. I still wish you would write "No Center Stripe". I spent two weeks in Taos, knew exactly what was meant by that analogy!!

Nita said...

@Sherry - So funny that you remember my working title! That book is still on my To Do list, along with about six others!!!

Jennifer Combs said...

I am reading these comments as I am getting ready to work on my writing assignment for Humanities 152! Okay, no more putting it off, just do it!

Portia Periwinkle said...

Harbin Hot Springs in northern California is my ultimate vacation and a great place to write. There is no cell nor internet service. Yes, good start. There are unlimited hot pools, steam rooms, saunas, walking trails, free yoga, mountain vistas, and much more all for the price of your room. They have a restaurant and a coffee spot, but you can also cook your own in a large communal kitchen.

I find that the first 2 days there I'm just feasting on the place, then I settle down and get a lot of writing done. www.harbin.org

Nita said...

@Jennifer - Better get to work! Good luck with those assignments

@Portia - That place sounds lovely! Enjoy.

Cynthia Rosi said...

The only time when place mattered was when I immigrated, after 16 years of speaking British English, back to the States. I had to recover my former vocabulary, and add the new slang, in order to write in the new place. I also needed to see Ohio in all its seasons to be able to describe it well. Otherwise, the best cure for not writing is to write. Don't hesitate to get serious help if you have a tough case of block.

Nita said...

@Cynthia - I especially agree about seeing a place in its particular season in order to write about it. The details are essential! And it never hurts to ask for help! Thanks for your comment.