Would a Change in Scenery Make Your Writing Better?

Breaker, breaker, we’ve got a suspect that just ran a red light!

Bleep, bloop, blip.

It’s filthy in here. Dirt on the floor. Stained office chairs. Probably secondhand. An old pinball machine with a “cop chase” theme. A table with Ms. Pac-man (not “Mrs. Pac-man” because she doesn’t NEED a man!) built right into the tabletop. I look around the room and I see a race track painted on the wall, and tires. Lots of them.

They’re stacked up six high. I almost think that the nerd from a ’90s sitcom just filmed an episode where they all work on a car and he’s been shoved into one of those stacks. All I’d have to do is pull off the top tire to expose his frustrated sad sack expression and the studio audience will roar.

I’m at an old tire shop in a ghetto-ish part of Milwaukee. My tires have needed a replacement for about two years, but I’ve always been too broke to get them. Other stuff gets in the way. But in the last couple weeks, my tires’ air-holding abilities have gone from stopping at the air compressor at the gas station “once in a while” to “several times a month” to “weekly” to “every few days”. My wheel shakes around everywhere I drive. It’s no good. I’m afraid to drive up the street to the store, much less anywhere else.

Thankfully, I was paid today and I can take my car in. While here, I decided to pull out my netbook and knock out my 1,000 words for the day. As I was freewriting, I noticed something: my writing wasn’t repetitive today.

Generally, I have spent the last couple weeks freewriting about the same topics: the new contract I got for my copywriting business, my family, stresses, etc. Just the main stuff that continues to be on my mind. But today, I was writing about pinball machines, Pac-man games, and the Milwaukee ghetto.

Why? I had a change of scenery.

All year so far, I’ve been going through my writing in my office. As much as I love my office, it’s the same surroundings every day. I’m not challenged. I’m not uncomfortable. I’m not seeing anything new. The experience, by and large, is the same.

So now, I plan on spending at least one day a week out “in the wild”. I want to work from a Starbucks, or a park (when it’s, you know, not 12 degrees outside), or wherever I happen to be – like an auto shop waiting room. I want to get out of the office and have some fresh air not only in my lungs, but in my writing.

I think that’s a worthwhile goal to have. It’s like traveling: you love home, and you always want to return there, but you need to get a little perspective once in a while. You need to see other things. Smell other smells. Put yourself in different situations.

The smell of car grease and the feel of a stiff, old, stained office chair sparked new bits of creativity in my writing. I didn’t have to do anything else – I just sat there and experienced it.

What about you? Do you find that a change in scenery can kickstart your writing?

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