A Writer’s Quest: Setting is Everything

June 28th, 2011 · No Comments »

The idea of being a writer can be a romantic one – even the anguish of writers such as the Bronte sisters, John Keats and Virginia Woolf is considered in a romantic light. Oh to be inspired to write such words and to live in a time with no distractions such as Wife Swap or I’m a Celebrity get Me Out of Here!

Although I know what is actually involved in writing a novel, I do sometimes get caught up in the romantic idea of it all.

A number of years back I had the house to myself for the evening so I thought I’d engage in a spot of writing. I became very excited about the prospect. I think I was reading something of a ye olde era at the time (you know, something pre Harry Potter) so I thought I’d create the perfect setting for this writing exercise.

Everyone knows if you create the perfect setting, the perfect words will come!

I turned off the lights and lit some candles to write by. I poured myself a goblet of red wine and then I sat down to await the creative spirits.


I ploughed on regardless. Only problem was it was difficult to see my computer’s keyboard in the candlelight (I was hardly going to use pen and paper, I mean I’m not a barbarian!) and this made the typing process awkward, slow and frustrating. Then of course in the dim light, made worse by the blinding contrast of the computer screen, my hand collided with the goblet and the end result was disaster.

Even before that, back when I was living on the farm, I once headed out to my favourite creekbed (a good trek away I might add) where I believed my writing would be enhanced by being deep in nature. At the sight of the first snake I couldn’t relax, by the second snake I was on edge. Ants kept biting me and my position in the tree (snakes rarely climb trees) was not a comfortable one. Disaster again.

I’m reminded of these stories because I spent the weekend in Melbourne, a city known for its cultural and artistic edge. So again I was inspired by a writing cliché – this time of taking my computer to a funky café and writing there. This cliché, I do have to say, fared better than the 2 previously mentioned debacles. I actually did feel inspired and the words poured forth. A few pages later however I realised the words were mostly a transcript of the conversations taking place around me. They were not the divine words a writer longs to hear.

I was no longer a writer; I’d become a stenographer.

The truth must be told. Trying to create a perfect setting is an example of procrastination. Procrastination is an evil and contagious disease with no cure. Writing requires lots of hard yakka and that can be done most anywhere (though in an ergonomic chair is best and in a crocodile’s mouth is the worst). There will be wonderful moments of creativity and inspiration but you can’t plan for them.

If you think that’s going to stop me, you’re mistaken! I still have many more settings to try, including but not limited to:  a deserted island (once I fashion a solar energy panel from sand, and establish a wi-fi connection); various exotic worldwide locations; and finally a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere (but within close distance of a good coffee shop).

Wish me luck.

Categories: Real Stories , Writing

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