I mean that literally. Change what you’re looking at while you’re writing, and you’ll probably find you write better.
My writing encompasses a wide range of genres, from the articles and copywriting that keep me afloat financially to books that try to help others navigate life, to novels, short stories, and essays. A panorama that sweeping really calls for an equally sweeping backdrop, but it took me a long time to understand that.
I did what I thought writers do: I sat in a room and wrote.
And I got published; I won’t say that it was bad. But there invariably came the day when I found myself staring at the same four walls I’d been staring at for the past several years and realizing that something wasn’t working.
I decided that I needed to shake things up a little. A family member owned a vacation condo on the Jersey Shore, so I took a deep breath, borrowed it for two weeks, and one very cold November found myself walking on a very solitary windy beach … with ideas coming at me faster than I could grab them.
It was, I decided, a sign from the writing gods, and immediately made the pilgrimage a permanent one. Every year I started spending two months in an apartment (often different apartments from year to year) by the sea, and I found that everything about my writing changed: the feel, the spark, the energy behind it was different.
Encouraged by the experience (and its results!), I began applying for writing fellowships that eventually took me to new and different venues; and every time I go somewhere fresh, somewhere challenging, it gives my creativity an amazing jump start.
I don’t seek out the ocean as much anymore, as I now live in my own cottage near the sea; but every time I can, I manage a week or two or four someplace radically different. Those same four ways can be extremely nurturing—as long as you balance them with something a little more challenging.
How can you appropriate that kind of experience into your writing? What if you cannot arrange your life to leave home for months at a time? Don’t despair; there’s still a lot you can do to change your point of view:
- Apply for writing fellowships, workshops, and conferences. There are long ones and short ones, ones that require you to be cut off from the rest of the world and others that require you to work with others. There are enough out there for you to be able to find one to suit your needs. Check out the Shaw Guides for more information.
- A do-it-yourself retreat is easy to arrange. Even if you don’t have accommodating family members, off-season rates are within most folks’ reach for a long weekend; and even hotel rooms can be conducive to change-of-pace writing just by virtue of not being the same old place.
- If you have a place that might be attractive (or just plain habitable) to someone else, consider doing a home exchange. Some of my best do-it-yourself writing retreats have happened staying in someone else’s house while they stayed in mine… there’s a certain shared energy that way.
- Day trips are super quick-starts to try first. The only caveat? Don’t go anywhere you’ve already been: the point of the exercise is to really push yourself to find a different environment. Stick a pin in a map and make that your destination. Even if you don’t write while there, the experience will shake you up enough to find its way into your writing later on.
Changing your point of view can be liberating, exhilarating, and just plain fun. Don’t let your writing stagnate: the world is a wide-open place, just waiting for you. Get out there!
Jeannette de Beauvoir helps writers find their voices, styles, and perfect environments! More at jeannettedebeauvoir.com