Friday, February 27, 2015

A Room with a View

Do you pull down your shades and shut out the world when you write? Or are you motivated by a city view? A view of nature? What is the ideal landscape for your creativity?

by Paul D. Marks

I don’t think I have an “ideal” landscape, but I do like to see something appealing and engaging outside the window, whether a busy cityscape from a high-rise or a view of the hills or a country scene.

That said, I’ve written in places where there wasn’t much of a view.  Just the stucco wall of the apartment next door or even worse the inside wall of my apartment and no view of anything. But I didn’t like that much. Don’t like having nothing to look at, and when that was the case I would put pictures on the walls that would “inspire” me. In our last house, we had a pretty nice view...but it was on the back side of the house and my office was on the front side, looking out at the street. So the walls there were decorated largely with Edward Hopper prints – good for writing mysteries and noir. But some of the time I’d write on the laptop in the kitchen or family room where I could look out at the view. Which was nice...except for the time the hills across the way were blazing and smoke was furling up. And then hoping the fire wouldn’t jump over to us.

In our current house, I can see the canyon and hills in the distance from my office. It’s quiet and peaceful most of the time. Sometimes I just look out the window, especially at night when I can see lights dancing in the distance, across the canyon. And on the walls here are mostly rock and movie posters, lobby cards, album covers. But what happens with them much of the time is that they just blend into the background and I don’t really see them. Other times they stand out and I can enjoy them and get inspiration from them. But mostly I just look out the windows.

My office might be a cluttered mess, but I can block that out. Having something serene outside to look at calms me and gives me the peace of mind I need to get into that Zen writing state (he said with only a hint of sarcasm, at least about the Zen).

I do like our view here, but Robin’s view is to die for. Can’t compete with that. Very nice!

And, while I do like something to look at out the window, I also like to “shut the world out” when I write, not in a visual sense. But in a sense of quiet. I need quiet, for reasons I won’t bore you with. I’ve lived in places where there was construction going on next door or across the alley. Sometimes eighteen hours a day. Once the vibrations from the construction were so bad that when I tried to play a record the needle would skip across it, making a sound as irritating as fingers on a blackboard.

When I haven’t had quiet, I would play music to mask the background sounds. Mostly the music turned to white noise.

And unlike Susan, who thrives on external stimulation, I can’t write well or at all in public places. I’m just too distracted by everything going on around me. I want to drink and chat and have fun. So I like retreating to my clean, well-lighted place, to borrow a phrase.


Meredith Cole said...

Like you, I surf around my house depending on whether I need a view or not... I wrote in cafes when my child was a baby and I had to get out of the house (trading one noise for another)... Now I almost never do!

Susan C Shea said...

The middle photo is so pretty I thought it was an illustration! Looks a bit like Scottsdale, AZ. Someday, I'll post a photo of what I COULD look at from my window...write on!

RJ Harlick said...

Paul, I'm like you, I like to be able to look at something interesting while I write, even if it is only a flickering fire, a real one not the TV version. But I suppose that could work too.

Robin Spano said...

Your canyon view IS to die for. There's something about the red rocks, the muted edges of those hills, that makes me hear a coyote and feel wistful when I look at your photo.

Paul D. Marks said...

Meredith, you must have been desparate to swap one set of noice and confusion for the one of the cafĂ© :) . In this house I pretty much write in the office, though sometimes I’ll go sit outside. But yeah, in the last house, I’d bounce around...sometimes off the walls.

Thanks, Susan. Would love to see what you ‘could’ look at from your window!

RJ, I guess a flickering TV fire is better than no fire. You could also opt for the fish tank. But yeah, the real thing is better. Anything’s better than a blank wall, at least for me. But Salinger used to write in a bomb shelter if I recall. At least I’ll bet it was quiet down there.

Thanks, Robin. It’s nice. But I think your view tops ours. You have something we don’t in your view: water. And it really is beautiful. Some day we should do a house exchange... And since you mentioned coyotes, we hear them here all the time. And see them on occasion. Both on our street and when I walk the dogs up the canyon. Once there were two just a few feet away from us. It gave me pause. But they just looked our way, then went back to their business. It was actually a nice experience...that time. But another time on our walk we got surrounded (in a semi-circle) by a pack of wild dogs. That was scary. And we have mountain lions, but I’ve never seen one, and hope not to.