Here I am in the picturesque Rocky Mtns of Colorado. When friends heard I was coming here, they said, “Oh, what a great place to write!” A quiet cabin, a rushing river, alpine beauty, no phone or family to distract me. Nine thousand feet, up where the air is clear. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And yet the words don’t just flow out of me after all. No effortless inspiration blowing in with the mountain breeze. It got me thinking.
What makes a great place to write? Yesterday while I was wrecking fences I realized two things. One, wrecking fences is a great activity to do when you need to think. You know how some people say their best ideas come to them in the shower? I believe it’s the same phenomenon. Wrecking fences, like washing your bod, is an activity that takes a fair amount of immediate concentration. Much of my brain was occupied with crowbar angles, logs, piles, lifting, hauling etc. I had to be aware of what I was doing right then and there, or I could get hurt. This doesn’t leave much brain for anything else, but it does leave some, and I think that’s when and why creative breakthroughs can happen. Your mind is so focused on one activity that the usual chatter is suppressed, diminished. What’s left over is a clear channel through which insights may pass.
The insight that passed through the brain channel that fence wrecking opened was that internal environment is much more important than external environment. Some people have their writing spot, specially set up just the way they like it, and that’s where they write. Others write on napkins, at the soccer field, in their semi truck after a day of driving. I think the one thing successful writers have in common is that, regardless of their physical setup, their internal environment is focused, calm, and alert. How you arrange that internal environment is the key to your success. Myself, I find that doing something physical first (like my current favorite, fence wrecking) seems to knock the kinks out, blow the dust off, clear my mind.
The third realization, which came to me later, for the zillionth time, is that I learn the same lessons over and over. Knowledge comes in layers, and the deeper layers carry echoes of those above them. I have had both of the above thoughts before, in different renditions. They still felt like realizations this time around. I laugh as I peel this layer, recognizing it again, wondering if I’ll ever really fully understand anything.