"I'm sure that I could be a movie star if I could get out of this place." From the song Piano Man, by Billy Joel
Call me sensitive, particular, needy and just plain hard to please, but when it comes to my writing environment, it’s crucial that several elements be in place. In other words, I’ve found that some of my most outstanding prose takes to actual ink on paper when the air temperature is between 45 and 50 degree Fahrenheit, the air quality is green (or good) on the weather charts and the sky is overcast; when I’m wearing indigo jeans that make me feel skinny and a sweater that makes me feel as if snuggled up somewhere in a ski lodge.
I write well when no one is around—not talking upstairs or breathing next to me—and I love when thunder rumbles in the distance, not clangs over my head, when dogs bark in the distance, but not next door. My ability to draft a masterpiece is directly related, I think, to my basal body temperature, my hunger level—I can’t be starving and I can’t be bloated—the clarity of my skin and my mood: depression breeds too much angst, anger, insanity; sadness, extreme pathos; happiness, shallowness. Jaded, bitter, aloof, independent, defiant, determined, hopeful, energized, focused, level-headed: If I don’t feel any of these productive characteristics, I might as well pretend I don’t know what a pen is.
I’m inspired by mountains (no where near where I live in rural South Carolina, the antithesis of creative energy), shop-lined, oil-stained city streets (also non-existent in my current environs) bustling with women in business suits and tennis shoes, hot dog and funnel cake vendors, ticket scalpers, guitar players, street painters, international characters and culture. Culture—oh how I do miss the laidback, Polish-Catholic culture of Baltimore, the origins of my entire immediate family. There’s this one street near the harbor and not far from Sip n’ Bite (a hole in the wall that serves the best breakfast and Baltimore special, scrapple) that is full of Polish shops: bakeries, imported crafts, religious article shops. It’s not a flashy street; on the surface it looks like any old street. No neon signs, not a lot of traffic or people. But when you’re strolling the sidewalk you can actually see the displays in the window and the battered signs over the doors. And the smells are wonderful: pierogis, kielbasa, babkas, breads, the aromas of which just waft warm and fresh right out the doors.
I need to transcend my current setting—hot, subtropical climate, retirement community, artistically infertile—to subconsciously and emotionally get where I need to be in order to write.
Given all that needs to be in alignment for me to create, it’s a wonder I get anything done.
image courtesy http://www.polyvore.com