Wednesday, April 22, 2009

by CiCi Barnes

J gave us some great tips Monday on taming our muse, and now I want us to think about setting.

Spring inspires me. I walk out on my front porch, take in the budding trees, pops of color from azaleas, yellow bells, daffodils and dogwoods. Of course, there’s always the pollen to contend with, a necessary evil to get to the good stuff.

Everything comes to life: robins’ eggs - soon to be little birdies chirping away for the coveted worm from mama, buzzing bees, nature at its absolute best.

I’ve sat in my study all winter, pecking away at the computer keys trying to get through that sagging middle. With warm temps, I transfer my work to the front porch and my mind springs to life. The right word pops into my head after I’d spent a month of rainy days and Mondays looking for it. A better phrase peeps out from behind the tender young leaves of my Bradford pear trees.

When the sun beams down nice and warm, I transfer my work to the back deck. Rushing hubby just a bit, I have him open up the pool. Blue sparkling water glinting in the brightness, a gentle gurgle from the jets pumping in clean water. I am now in heaven.

As much as the new flora and fauna excite me, water is my muse’s home. Creeks, streams, rivers, waterfalls, ponds, lakes, oceans, pools, puddles, hot tubs. It doesn’t matter. Put me next to water and I start to salivate, for more reasons than one. I’m sure I must have been a fish in my other life. Even my “sign” is in the water category, Cancer the Crab. Hubby says that does fit my mood sometimes. But when I start to get crabby, he knows he can take me away, as the old Calgon commercial use to say, to any body of water and I transform. I’m suddenly cheery, open to pretty much anything, and my writing muse blossoms to rival any bush or flower the good Lord can create.

We have a little poll going on to the right side of this blog, letting you vote for your favorite spot to get you writing. The ocean started out as the winner, but I now see that a mountain cabin has edged ahead. That would be all right with me if there were a babbling brook next to that cabin.

Yes, all water gets my juices going, but I lean a little toward the ocean. Powerful, mysterious, yet calming and soothing to my soul. If I had the opportunity to stay at the beach twenty-four/seven, I might pump out books by the dozens every year. My fingers would be worn to the nub from constant typing. But that’s okay. When the fingers are gone, I can dictate with the ocean waves crashing in the background.

When I first started writing, I knew my setting would involve the ocean. That summer, I plopped myself right down on the sand, opened my notebook and stared out at the sea. Here’s what I wrote on a whim, without even knowing my character’s name yet.

The sight of the ocean spreading endlessly in both directions quickened her pulse, renewed her spirit. She pressed her hands to the small of her back, stretched, filling her lungs with the strong salt air.

Standing for several minutes on the edge of the rise, she watched the waves build, then curl and crash into a bubbling foam. Water rushed to cover land, then drew back quickly, pulling sand, shells, and seaweed with it. Such a simple, easygoing movement, yet, holding such power and energy in its clutches. Energy she needed; energy she was determined to regain as she collected her thoughts and decided her future.

I think I wrote that as much for me as I did my heroine.

Well, I’ve gone and worked myself into a frenzy. I’m ready for that trip to the beach. Coming right up in May. I’m about halfway through my WIP. Who knows, I may come home with The End written on the last page.

How about you? What is your all-time muse place? Does it thrive at a certain time of year? Need those rainy days and Mondays to ponder your next scene? Content to sit on your front porch? Just have to get away from it all to do your work justice? Give us a hint as to your perfect setting to write your perfect book.



Sandra Elzie said...

Good morning CiCi,

My office is in a corner of my home and sits up slightly on a knoll so I'm looking down over the street and an empty cul-de-sac with nothing but trees on the least for now. The three windows are in an octogon or bay-window arrangement, so I love to write in my office, overlooking the trees. That's where the deer live and they come through my line of vison a couple times a day. I love nature..although I could sit and listen to the ocean for hours at a time, I don't get as much work done there. I use it to relax, not work.

I don't have to "get away" to work...since I'm retired, home is my "get away".

Thoughtful post...Sandy Elzie

Debbie Kaufman said...

Love the comparison of the energy in you snippet.

For me, it is a season, not a place. For some weird reason, from Thanksgiving until Christmas, I am always inspired to write a fantasy. Maybe this year, I will!

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Thanks for such great food for thought! I discovered long ago that I am actually like Scarlett O'Hara in one lonely respect: when things get tough, I have to go home. By home I don't mean Marietta, I mean West Tennesse where I can take a deep breath free of smog, where each breath brings the smell of rich earth, where birds chirp and cows low. I know to other people it's a land of crops, gullies, and double-wides, but, for me, it's the place to go when the well runs dry.

Thanks for making me think of it!

CiCi Barnes said...

Good morning, ladies.

Sally, glad to oblige. Yes, there is no place like home to stir the senses. I hope you get to visit often.

Debbie, it's great that you can write during that time. I'm usually in a frenzy, but I can see that time as giving one a warm, fuzzy feeling, just right for putting words to paper.

Sandy, I love the sound of your writing place. Nature certainly has an effect on us. Sounds like a lovely place for your muse to reside.

For the rest of the day, I will be taking care of my father, so I can't respond again until this evening. Please talk among yourselves and share your muse's residence.

I look forward to reading all about it tonight.


Dianna Shuford said...

Great Post Cici!

Where do I go? Anywhere quiet where distractions can be limited. Preferably not home (so housework can't call my name!).

Great analogy with the ocean by the way. I loved it and can't wait to peep at your manuscript!

J Perry Stone said...

CiCi, I panicked last night because my mouse wasn't working and I knew this blog was coming in the morning!

I just got back from Office Depot and thank God. I've been going insane what with your juicy hints and now I see how very worthwhile the wait has been.

There have been two low points in my life--the sort that you recognize as the very bottom of low--and both shifted next to water. The first was near a stream, my dad sitting quietly beside me and talking me out of the dark. The second was the beach and walking with my mother. I think it's easier to cry at the beach. All that salt in the air and water absorbs those tears. Like the air recognizes the alchemy, claims them back then changes your sadness. I can't explain well, but I know you know what I mean.

As it is, I used to love the woods, but I have to say I now agree with you wholeheartedly. The muse must live near life-giving water.

Anonymous said...

I write where I have to (I used to have an office, but that room sort of got annexed into other purposes by the family at large). Plus I do a fair bit of traveling and even writing in the carpool line. So the geographic location, per se, isn't all that important to me, but I've come up with tricks and tecniques for tweaking whatever setting I'm in. Music is the biggest must have for me, and luckily, it travels with my laptop. The right music can take you away--to the Highlands, to a small southern town where they only get one radio station (country music, natch), to a loud and crowded club where your hero and heroine meet for the first time. Or, if you write thrillers, where a murderer stalks his prey. The other thing that I've noticed is that I work better in soft lighting. I tend to favor lamps, candles or natural lighting to bright overheads. And if you like the ocean, I highly recommend either a small babbling fountain or a salt lamp. Okay, no, it's not the *exact* same as writing in a beach house, but it's kinder to the budget =)


Maxine Davis said...


Yes and yes. Love the ocean, babbling brook, lake, pool - whatever! Water can always 'do it' for me. I must admit, though, when it is cold and wintery, a fire in a cabin in the mountains can certainly be what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, in those cases, the doctor also calls for a nap.

You have helped rejuveniate me with your scenes! Bye, got to go write.

Linsey Lanier said...


What a beautiful post. I love your soothing descriptions. I find water very relaxing, too. Mental images of the white sand beaches are my happy place. :)

I'm loving our April theme. Very therapeutic -- and I really need that right now.

Thanks for calming my nerves.


Nicki Salcedo said...

"I think I wrote that as much for me as I did my heroine."

Cici, more truer words have never been spoken. This is a wonderful point.

My muse place is a fountain. I guess it is a mini ocean in the middle of the city. I like to dip my feet in and ponder.

Dianna Love said...

Interesting and thought-provoking about settings for writing. I write anywhere I can, but if I have a choice I want a window or to be outdoors. One wall in my writing room is all windows that looks out on my backyard bird feeders and fountain. I find it pleasant when I have to do the "staring and thinking" moment. I do like rainy days for writing just because I feel like if I get my work done on a rainy day I can be outside on a nice day.

Of course, that sounds good on paper, but when the nice day comes around I usually have a ton of other stuff waiting on me. "g"

Marilyn Baron said...

I'm with you CiCi. I'm an ocean girl too. We have a beach condo and my office there is near the back but I set up my desk so that it faces the ocean, but then it mesmerizes me and I probably don't get as much writing done as I do at home in Atlanta. But I do wake up early when I'm there and look at every sunset and write notes on a notepad (a real note pad, not a computer) and then transfer them to the computer.

We haven't opened our pool yet because it's been so cold. (Where is Spring anyway?) but I like looking at the pool too. It's very soothing.

I might have to try Tanya's bubbling fountain.

I love what you wrote about the ocean.

Marilyn Baron

Tami Brothers said...

Ohhhh, you make me want to sit on the back porch and write. I think I would have to say my muse is anywhere without an internet access. I have no will power when it comes to the internet....

Thanks a ton for that little touch of spring... You took me right there, looking out over the water with your heroine. I felt like I was standing right there with her. And I wanted to be.

Thanks for a nice little get-away!!!


ps - I voted for the moutains, but I can totally see your point about the water....

Susan May said...

I do most of my writing in my basement office or when I subsitiute teach. My dream is to have one of those huts that hang out into the water on a tropical island. Will go there one day. If I'm really into the story I can write anywhere.

Cinthia Hamer said...

CiCi, I know you and I have discussed this one before... ;-)

I'm another water baby. I simply must have my periodic dips in the briny or I'll dry out.

And every book I've ever written has either taken place near water or water plays an important role in my story.

These days, since I'm landlocked 99% of the year, as soon as the weather warms up, I'm out in the back garden, writing underneath the shade of my gazebo (or Lady Cinthia's Bower as my hubby christened it). I can watch and listen to the titmice and cardinals chirping at the feeders, the flickers beating out a Morse code high up in the pine trees, and the squirrels scolding the dogs who are too sedated by the sunshine to pay any attention.

Every few moments, the Spring breeze tantalizes me with faint whiffs of honeysuckle, tea olive and early roses.

Even rainy days don't disappoint when the seasons are warm. I can sit in my kitchen with a cup of coffee or tea and while I write, I can listen to the rain falling on the roof and cascading down the rain gutters.

There truly is something about the rebirth of the year and a rebirth of my writing motivation. Almost as if I've come out of a winter of hibernation and I'm starving for lack of mental nourishment.

I do, however have a really difficult time writing in places that are dim, closed off or particularly noisy. Probably because I'm more than a little claustrophobic.

CiCi Barnes said...

Ah, it's nice to know I have so many water bloggers.

J, I'm glad you got your mouse and I hope the water helped your mom and dad with you.

Tanya, it's good that a writer can improvise when she can't be at her ideal setting. Thanks for the tips. I think one of those little waterfall thingys would go good in my study.

Linsey, glad I could be of service. Also, a beautiful picture of your favorite writing place stuck above your computer helps.

Ooh, Nicki, love the fountain idea. I need to visit one. I think there's one in Savannah calling my name.

Diana, like Tanya, with your busy schedules, you don't always have the luxury of writing in 'the spot'. The rest of us can take tips from you two on adapting. Thanks bunches.

Yes, Marilyn, the ocean can be distracting. You want to just sit back and soak in the ambiance. Like you, I occasionally want the old pad and pen. It slows down my mind and lets me think better.

I agree, Tami about the internet. It can certainly suck you in and pull you away from the task at hand. That's why I love my NEO. I can write without temptation. Glad I could pull you away for a moment.

Hey, Susan, let's go in together and buy one of those south seas islands. Can you imagine flying in there for a month or two of isolation and writing? Wow!

Yes, Cinthia, I think we were separated at birth on so many things. And rainy days are one of my favorites for writing. I don't feel the need to be outside. I can just sit in a cozy nook and write as long as there are windows. I, too, don't care for closed off, dark places. I'm a light person.

Ladies, I've loved hearing from you and what you like and how you adapt when you can't be in your ideal place. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Sorry I couldn't be here throughout the day to comment. I hope you've returned.

Love to all.