Does it matter where a writer lives: a big city or the countryside; a two-story house or a basement; a culturally diverse or monotonous neighborhood? Yes, it does. Why is this? There’s a romanticized notion that in the past, writers were generally poor, struggling to get by in attics.
Environments affect all people; this has been confirmed in sociological studies of human life, and urban studies in particular. What surrounds us affects how we feel, what we do, what we think and how we channel these thoughts and emotions.
This is especially true for artists, as a special group of people more inclined to perception and higher sensibilities. Others perceive just as well, and yet the artist is the one who is going to articulate his inner turbulence.
Writers (and other artists) are responsible for the idealized status of London, Paris, New York and what they stand for. Sometimes, those literary city icons stay for centuries, like in the case of the cities above.
Other times, it disappears, like Moscow for example, or is presently fighting its way, like Istanbul nowadays.
It takes only a few writers to make a city immortal.
This explains the residencies offered to writers in many places across the world. The assumption is that even if the writer is writing about something else, inspiration may strike unexpectedly and motivate him/her to write about the place he dwells in.
If what you see is bleak, surely this bleakness will show itself in your writing.
If the street you’re walking on every day is boring, surely it wouldn’t make your writing boring. What it can do is influence your mood, and this is highly important for a writer. When an interesting thing catches your attention outside, it fuels your imagination and creativity, thus leading toward ideas which will eventually turn into a piece of writing.
Writers as City Strollers
Although it’s said that writers live in their own world, they are present in the ‘now’. The writer is the city stroller, constantly wandering about, looking and not looking at the same time.
A walk to clear out the head, a walk to collect new ideas, a walk for the joy of it, a walk for working out the next bit of your story, a walk with the purpose of searching your character.
The place you live in can definitely make your writing stale or vibrant; it influences your sensibility even when you don’t notice it. Don’t move to Paris or New York just because you want to be a writer. Location does and can matter, but only if you make it so.
Take a better look at what’s around, and find beauty in what is there; your writing will come alive along with your own spirit and the place’s. Why not give life to an unexplored location, reviving a place where only you can see its exquisiteness? It’s your story to tell, and let’s not forget that often the unremarkable things are the most remarkable.
How have the places in your life affected your writing?
For fifteen minutes write about the place you live in, the general mood it brings to you, and anything you’ve perceived to be characteristic for the place – an urban exploration. When you’re finished, post the practice in the comments.
As usual, try to support your fellows too.