Unsurprisingly, I enjoy writing.
It’s not always particularly easy, and sometimes ideas and inspiration can be hard to come by. I’m sure most writers will know the feeling of looking at a blank page and wondering what happened to all those brain cells they used to have.
But inevitably an idea will befall you, and sometimes it comes from your surroundings.
As I start this post I’ll admit that I don’t know where it’s going – I don’t have a list of places to include so what follows is truly a meander through my mind.
So here are just some of the inspirational places I have found to write:
1. My back garden
This is not, I’m afraid, an open invitation to visit my garden. Lovely as it is, and as much as I’d like to share it, part of its appeal is its peace. I live in a fairly built up area, in a modern housing development, where outside space is not always given priority. But I can quite honestly say that my garden truly is a little haven. It’s not big and it’s not grand, but it’s a self-made space that I adore. When we moved into the house it was literally a pile of mud – once a farmer’s field, it had no fences, no paving, very little in the way of plant-able soil, but endless sunshine and endless potential. While we’ve lived here we’ve worked hard to create a small garden that offers somewhere to sit, socialise, eat, cook, relax and – of course – write. I happen to be writing this from the very place. Being outdoors is something I place a lot of value in; it helps me to feel calm and refreshed, and often helps me regain perspective on whatever it is that fills my head. I find writing outside really focuses my mind and provides me with a feeling of well-being that I just can’t replicate indoors.
2. The National Library
Admittedly, I have not frequented the NLS as often or as recently as I would like. Did I not have to hold down a full time job then I’m sure I’d be there all the time. But I have spent a fair amount of time in the NLS researching and writing, and it is a truly magical place. All libraries are places of tranquillity – you can palpably feel the words of a million writers fill the air. The NLS is perhaps akin to visiting a Cathedral. It’s volume and it’s capacity magnifies this feeling. You are quite literally surrounded by the works of some of the greatest minds of all time. I challenge anyone not to find that inspiring.
3. Haymarket, Edinburgh
For a period of time I was travelling into Edinburgh a couple of days a week for work, but I started a bit later than most commuters. Due to the ever-reliant train service (!) in the mornings I had some time to pass before I had to be at my final destination and so, like all good city-goers, I spent this indulging in expensive coffee in a trendy cafe. This, I found, brought a new and unexpected place to write. Among the hustle and bustle of hundreds of busy people coming in and out of the cafe, I was afforded a strange kind of peace – it was a bit like those scenes in movies where time slows for the protagonist while the background zips past at a thousand frames a second. I did a lot of note-making and idea plotting in this time, against the constant hum of coffee orders and phone beeps. It is strange how slow you can feel in a fast environment, if you’re not part of the throng.
What can I say about Skye? It’s a place that so many people hold dear, I hardly need to write anything at all. Skye is a special place for me and for my family, for many reasons both individual and shared. I also know several others for whom the Misty Isle is a special place. It’s home to some of the most staggering scenery in Scotland. You simply cannot visit without being taken aback by the scale of its beauty and every time I am there I struggle to remember I am in the same country as my home, and not a thousand miles away in a remote and exotic part of the world. In Skye, in it’s fresh and sea-soaked air, I have found inspiration for settings and for characters. I’ve remembered the island stories I grew up and relived their joy as an adult. And I’ve experience that feeling of remoteness from the day to day coupled with connection to the landscape and the natural world that I find so important.
Oh yes, Ibiza. While for many it is a place for parties, music, clubs and chaos, it’s not for me. When we visited Ibiza for the first time I was progressing three manuscripts, and I was in definite need of some inspiration for two of them. I had reached a point where I lacked clarity of intention and my mind was just swirling around the same ideas. Alongside my flip-flops and sun cream I packed my notebooks and pens, and off I went. I wasn’t really prepared for Ibiza – it is an absolutely beautiful island, lush and green with tropical, turquoise water. We stayed in an idyllic cove which felt miles away from the everyday. In that place, I felt peace like nowhere else. It was quiet but not deserted, relaxed but not still. Atop a cabana (j’adore) I unpacked my writing things and sat for hours, undisturbed. I straightened out the swirls and plotted out the stories that had been troubling me for weeks at home.
So – what can I take from this post which, in all likelihood, I am the only one interested in?
Well, it seems that what all of these places have in common is a feeling of peace. Peace of mind, peace of soul, peace in thought. That is something that I know, increasingly, I need. Life is busy – it seems always so. We all have stresses and strains that make our days feel complex – work, family, children, pets, money, chores, necessities. Writing among other things is one of my escapes and so it comes as no surprise to me that I seek out peaceful places to write and I achieve more when I do.
One of the best things about writing for children is the feeling that you might be able to inspire some of them in their young lives. From thinking on this post, I hope I can also help some children find a bit of peace in reading too – that they can escape to a world of unicorns or tartan-chomping cows; imagine themselves a squirrel in a picnic basket or any one of the other characters on the way. And hopefully in talking to children in schools, nurseries and libraries as I’m lucky enough to do, I can encourage them to seek out some peaceful places of their own to follow whatever their passions might be.
I’m not old, but I can see marked differences in the childhood I had before the turn of the century and that which children today have. If more kids can go outside, find some peaceful time (away from technology) to be creative, imaginative and free, that can surely only be a good thing.