A few weeks ago, my writing buddy, Helen Dahlke, reminded of Writing Down The Bones, one of my favourite books on writing by the wonderful Natalie Goldberg. Helen read out the article entitled, Write Anywhere, and it reminded me of how important it is to keep our muse flexible.
I am a creature of habit. Habits ground me and keep me going day by day. I love my desk and the particular table in the coffee shop where I write. I love my coloured V-ball pens. I love my Leuchturrm notebooks. But habits can hinder our creativity too. What if the conditions aren’t right? What if we don’t have access to our desk or if someone is sitting at our special coffee table? Or what if we’ve forgotten our favourite notebook or if our favourite pen has run out?
I smiled at an interview with Anne Tyler on The BBC World Book Club, when she said that if they stopped making her favourite brand of ball point pens, she might have to stop writing:).
So, I thought of Goldberg’s advice and set myself a challenge. I decided to write 10 sentences in 10 different locations over the course of a day.
I did it on a day when I knew I would be busy travelling, the kind of day when I often talk myself out of writing because the habitual furniture of my writing days isn’t in place.
To make it manageable, I only wrote one sentence in each place, and I mixed up writing in my notebook and on scraps of paper and receipts.
I wrote a sentence:
1. At dawn while playing with my little girl on her bedroom carpet.
2. Sitting on a train platform, leaning my notebook on my lap.
3. On the train from Farnborough to Waterloo and then standing on The Tube from Waterloo to Camden Town.
4. On a park bench in the sunshine.
5. In a coffee shop on the back of a receipt.
6. Sitting in my parked car, leaning my notebook against my car steering wheel.
7. At dusk in the garden.
8. While cooking.
9. At the dinner table.
10. In bed.
There is a freedom in realising that we can write anywhere.
That we don’t need to wait for the right peon or notebook or location. That writing, unlike scuba-diving or skiing, is the most flexible of hobbies and professions. All we need is a scrap of paper and a borrowed pen – and, failing that, our minds, for all we need to form a sentence are words and those need not even be written down. It’s not the way to write a novel (though I suppose it could be…), but it’s a way to always keep writing, which is what matters most.
And the wonderful thing about writing in different ways and in different places and at different times of day, is that you will find your imagination refreshed – you will come up with sentences that sing.
Challenge: write ten sentences in ten different places.
Ideally, connect all the sentences to a particular project you are working on so that you get a new insight into your work.
Be ready to be surprised by what comes out – and to enjoy the great freedom of writing anywhere.
Happy writing x