Blog: The Changing of the Venue

Lake Tahoe, friends. That’s the spot that hep people call the bee’s knees. The place looks like Lake George on steroids–all muscular mountain peaks, blue-green lakes, and people seemingly unaffected by my acquisition of a (white!) iPhone. There is something about beautiful spaces, about nature really stepping up its game, that makes me want to write in a philosophic and pseudo-moralistic way, even if I only stayed there for 26 hours. I have no doubt that–if I lived in Tahoe– I would exclusively write fuzzy, confusing short(ish) poems about the need to recycle cars. Something to this effect:

Judgment will rain Down from
The green heavens on
Your SUV, especially
Because It only Takes Premium
Gas.
No, I know I’m in
an Audi  
(but it’s a sedan)

Can you believe I just came up with that poem right here, sitting in a car, driving through a city I want to call Sacramento? But honestly, the more I think about this, the more I think I’m onto something. Do you think that your writing style is reflective of your habitat? For example, do you think that I write in a pseudo-snarked, semi-cynical sarcastic tone because I live in a city that has no spring and lots of people wearing skinny jeans? Or do you think I write like that because I am just afraid that earnestness will make me vulnerable to well-timed verbal snipes via my Facebook wall? My opinion is that everyone has a certain style that they feel most comfortable in, but that the place where you express that style influences your tone in subtle ways. Let me put it another way: if the same writer, same talent, same style, same ideas, etc, lived in San Diego and Fargo, ND, would he/she write differently? And how do you think things would change?

… Is this too general to be applied in any relevant manner? Maybe. But that is why you are here, friends. You take my questions, turn them into answers, and we then, in turn, make those into writing world laws. That is why the Internets are so powerful.

Anyway, the world awaits your dropping of knowledge, friends. I will check in as a move all over the Pacific NW, and fill you in on all the hip fads those Near-Canadians utilize.

Life is,
A Highway

Tom Cochrane

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15 thoughts on “Blog: The Changing of the Venue

  1. Pat

    When I can no longer stand sitting in my office, I move to the kitchen where the daylight is better. If I really get desperate, I move to the waterfront two miles away, but only in nice weather. If it’s too hot or two cold I work from home. See, Kev, I don’t have a local cafe to share with hippies or anyone.

  2. April H

    Well..how timely! I’m working on my novel, which has been on and off and on for almost 3 years now. I know I’ll finish, and I need to. I’ve also known there’s somewhere we need to be besides where we are.
    We’re moving in 2 weeks to Sapphire Valley, NC from northern Ohio. This place in the mountains with the lakes and entirely different lifestyle has been in my head swimming around for a few years, and I finally located it.
    Where I’ve been writing has been conducive – my desk was in front of a set of french windows facing east, with a burning bush literally 2 feet in front of me out the window. Complete with Cardinals and fierly red leaves in the fall, morning sun – pretty lovely!
    However, the house, huge and time-energy-money consuming was zapping me. I hope you’re right, as I’m feeling like my new enviornment will free me up in so many ways…including, hopefully, with writing.
    I do think everything we do and everything around us affects us in every way! We’re so disconnected sometimes that we don’t realize it.
    Write, everyone.

  3. Kristan C.

    If you want to say you were driving through Sacramento, then I want to say I saw you drive by while I was sitting at the window of Java City, working feverishly on my nov … um … well, probably I was reading Television Without Pity.

  4. Tamara Kaye Sellman

    So you’ll likely miss the Seafair hydroplane races, Blue Angels, etc. Honestly, I live on the other side of the pond (Puget Sound) and never go near the Emerald City during Seafair time. Way way way too much really bad traffic, you can’t see the races that well anyway, and there are cooler, more writerly and artsy things to do anyway (and no, I don’t work for the CoC, I just love our literary and arts heritage here!):

    Sun Aug 3, 4p
    Poets at Pike Place Park
    Nancy Dahlberg, Eileen Fix, Thomas Hubbard, and Rayn Roberts all read, followed by an open mic, in a city park, to an audience of poetry lovers, junkies, and tourists.

    Mon Aug 4, 8p
    A Man Named Pearl
    Seattle International Film Festival, McCaw Hall Nesholm Family Lecture Hall
    305 Harrison Street
    Seattle (at Seattle Center)

    Tues Aug 5, 730p
    TANA FRENCH reads from The Likeness
    Elliot Bay Book Co., 101 So Main St
    Seattle (downtown)

    Wed Aug 6, 8p
    Seattle Poetry Slam
    ToST, 513 N 36th St
    Seattle (Fremont)

    Thurs Aug 7, 2-3p
    Site, Sculpture, Shoreline: Discover the Olympic Sculpture Park
    Olympic Sculpture Park
    2901 Western Avenue
    Seattle (waterfront)

    Thurs Aug 7, 5p
    All Access Night at Experience Music Project|Sci Fi Museum
    Free Admission with Live Music featuring The Endeavors & The Tea Cozies
    325 5th Ave NE
    Seattle (at Seattle Center)

    Fri Aug 8, 10a-4p
    Farm Fridays at Pike Place Market
    June 6 – October 31

  5. Stacey

    I find that it helps me to write in a setting that is the most closely related to the setting of my book. To be completely honest, I don’t see a drastic change in my voice/tone/style if I am writing in a different location. Then again, the only places I have ever wrote are at home, my school, and the library. But I do think that if I grew up in a city rather than the suburbs, I would probably not write the same way that I do now.

    I agree with Joanne said about writing after colorful moments. And that made me think that when I write is almost just as important as where I write.

    And Kevin, why are you awake at 2 in the morning? 🙂

  6. Kevin Alexander

    Friends,
    Thank you so much for your participation in said activity. You all make sense, although Tom revealed that he sometimes writes from "the pits at the drag strip," which is a phrase I have never heard before and demands some type of explanation…

    Anyway, I am currently in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. As you may or may not have heard, the road back to Vancouver was demolished yesterday by a rock slide that a lot of people think had to do with the earthquake in Cali. The good news is: everyone is totally fine. The bad news is: the road between Vancouver and Whistler is non-drivable for five days. The worse news is: I rented a Chevy Impala.

    I guess I can leave by driving another two hours north and then three hours back down. I guess. None of this is confirmed, but Google maps have confirmed said route, giving the estimated time at "Hella Long." But I have determined that the blog that I would inevitably start while stuck here would be called "Whilst in Whist" and it would document the heavy numbers of dudes wearing facial hair, chill unkempt curls, and Quicksilver hoodies.

    Joanne– I am alive. And despite your insane schedule, you are undoubtedly much more prolific than I could ever hope to be. I love and detest that about you:)

    Genevieve– stop sitting so close to the stereo. It’s unhealthy to hear Casey Casum from at that volume…

  7. Joanne

    Genevieve, actually I homeschool my kids, they are age almost 12 going on drama (a girl, of course), 9 (a son), 5 (another girl filled with drama), and 2 (my youngest curious wildman of a son). So, I NEVER have uninterrrupted time, seriously. My husband of 14 years and I have yet to have a honeymoon, don’t use babysitters, and have no closeby relatives to give us a break. My writing time is squeezed in whenever I have a deadline and my husband can handle it. I am able to get SO much more done with calm and peace and quiet, so I figure I am working at about 20% of my capabilities now. Boy, will I be be prolific when the the kids are grown! (If my mind does not turn to mush by then). But, the joy of kids is happening right now, so the writing takes up just a small portion of my week.
    It’s like sometimes the world seems black and white and sometimes it is in wonderful glorious color, and whenever those colorful, joyful moments happen, with kids or without, at home or at the beach or coffee shop or whatever, THAT’s the time to write.
    Kevin, You were too far north for the quake yesterday?
    Joanne

  8. Genevieve

    Joanne – Do you ever feel guilty about longing for school to start again so that you can write during the day without the 50 mom questions an hour? That’s been very frustrating lately. I want to enjoy being a mom, but I could SOOOOO go for uninterrupted hours of writing. At a coffee shop, a park, my room, the Subway at Wal-Mart, I don’t care.

    So this brings up another point. Location can take a second to uninterrupted time. And you don’t have to be a hair brained mom for it to matter. Sometimes it’s just keeping your cell phone at home, or writing someplace without internet access so that no one can reach you for a while.

    Also, perhaps Kevin it’s the break in the monotony that’s inspiring since you’re so used to the city.

  9. Genevieve

    I agree, a place can definitely affect (or is it effect? I can never remember. Don’t tell or they’ll take away my English degree)one’s writing. I once met Dr. Osundare, an African poet who teaches at the University of New Orleans, and he said that he loved the city despite it’s problems because there’s poetry in it. I asked him what he meant and he said that when he walks through the French Quarter everyone he passes by exudes poetry. Being here inspires him to write more so than in other cities.

    I’ve noticed that whenever I’m stuck I can find flow again if I just move my laptop from the desk to the floor in front of my stereo. When I was a kid I wrote on looseleaf sitting on the floor next to the radio, so maybe that jogs something.

    As for the vulneralbility, I think I’ve said before that I like it when you write about your fears, loves, epiphanies, and insecurities. It makes for very brave, raw writing. Facebook be damned! Let the muscular mountains pound more poetry out of that narrator in your head! (wasn’t that a beautiful analogy? and I’m not even sitting on the floor by my stereo!)

    Tom, for your next blog post tell us what it’s like to sit on the floor of your broken shower and the uncleanlilness of it all. It will be a great tale of woe and longing for soap.

  10. Joanne

    Absolutely, your environment influences you and how and what you write. I write very differently when I am home sitting at my pseudo-desk answering fifty mom questions every five minutes, than I do when I am sitting at a hip coffee shop listening to Norah Jones. Hell, I do everything differently, when I have my kids in the van with me I am "the mom" and when I drive by myself (rarely) I blast alternative rock music and feel like I’m 18 again. In Gainesville, where I live now, it is a university town with a green consciousness, compared to Key West, where I was last week which is a wild free for all town, and the writing, writers, and publications certainly reflect that. Think of Tom Corcoran, Phil Caputo, Tennessee Williams, and Hemingway.

  11. Tom

    This is a good question, and perhaps one that I should examine in a very literal fashion. Maybe I should look at what my writing is like when I’m in my bedroom/office versus at the coffee shop, or out in the garage in the workshop, or sitting in the pits at the drag strip. My quick guess is that the first several locales would reveal some well-conceived and caffeinated works, while the latter may be a tad greasy and unkempt, but would work very well when delivered at a fast pace.

    Maybe I’ll sit in my unfinished bathroom shower and write tonight. That will surely result in some depressing work, as I sorely miss the creature comfort of a working shower. *sigh*

  12. Shelly

    Well, I would have to agree with you. I do think that the surrounding and environment in which we live and work does indeed affect the person we are, our beliefs and how we live. For instance if the day is warm and sunny one may feel more inclined to go running and be outside. The person overall view would be more cheery. But on the flip side if it is raining and cold the idea of going outside for anything even grocery shopping can be a more than that person is willing to take on.
    I know that living with rain from October to middle of May did not make me want to go outside much, even with a new stiffy rain coat and a big umbrella.

    You have to inspiration no matter where you are, what you are doing and when the world turns from black and white to color (usually is spring) that’s when you absorb the warmth and feeling that carries you through the darker days.

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