This is something that's been on my mind a lot for a very long time. How important to a fiction writer is his or her environment? I'm not talking about the location where the story takes place or the immediate environment of the room or building where the writer works. I'm talking about the town, city or locale where the writer lives.
I believe all artists need a muse of one kind or another and the place where they live often includes, attracts, enables, encourages, mirrors or even, is
that muse. Personally, I feel much more creative in interesting places, among intriguing people that stimulate my imagination. If nothing else, it's this kind of inspiration that can drive you to the typewriter when you would ordinarily be too tired, bored or distracted.
A popular tenet of the positive attitude industry, (natural parasitic leech to the sales industry), of the 80s went something like, "If you want to be successful, hang out with people who are successful and you will soon be emulating them and their habits and behaviors". Though I'm not a big fan of the positive mental attitude path to success, as I prefer the authentic mental attitude and authentic, rather than perceived success, I do see some merit in this approach. Of course, success means something slightly different to all of us but I believe that artists, in general, and writers, in particular, can benefit enormously from being around interesting, colorful people and places.
When I was younger, it seemed like I knew more people who impressed or interested me in some way and then, there were fewer and fewer with each passing year till now, frankly there are none in my environment that I find even vaguely interesting. I don't know if this is an affect of my age, the times we live in or the place where I live. I've sometimes felt inspired by that old country and western song about a man whose over-bearing wife thought he was really a dull loser, while in fact, he carried on an exciting double-life and she was floored by the sheer number and colorfulness of the all exciting characters, who showed up for his circus-like funeral. I take my cue from that story and try to imagine, though in somewhat less hyperbolic terms, the people in my environment having similar stories. Btw, if anyone can think of the name of that song, please tell me, as I have forgotten and would really love to hear it again!!!
I've lived in the same general area all my life and really don't like it, even clash with it on many levels. However, I've been stuck here due to family responsibilities and other circumstances. Now, I'm free to move, and I'm gathering info about places of interest. Still, I'm occasionally struck by the thought that it might be wiser to conserve my limited resources by staying put till I'm able to generate an income from my writing sufficient to live in a place which, while more expensive, is also obviously more vibrant and interesting. After all, wouldn't a boring, dull existence give me more time to write and wouldn't an exciting, vibrant place distract me from my writing? I came across an article the other day, about some of the great American writers from previous generations/centuries and their primary places of residence. It hit me that most of them had lived in pretty dull, backward places. So, maybe the creation is all about the writer's imagination. Maybe I don't need to, "Live and Die in L.A.",
to have an interesting story to tell.
What say you other writing peeps? Is it all about being inspired by your environment or plumbing the depths of your imagination?