I am moving to Pompano Beach this month. Good thing I do not have a “real” job to quit.
The awesome thing about being a novelist is we are infinitely portable. Fling us across the globe and we will write just the same, continuing to spin words into imaginary worlds as if nothing has changed.
Ship me off to a planet on another solar system, and I will happily write by the light of another star. I sometimes feel like I travel through life inside a word bubble, or an imaginary space ship, that goes wherever I go.
My needs are minimal. I can write in a shack, a prison cell, a closet, or a luxury apartment, I really only need a box to sleep and write in. Aside from that, I require a pen, a notebook, a functioning brain, and a cat.
Though cats may be dispensable to some writers, it is hard for me to imagine writing without one.
My cat curbs my impulse to leave my computer. When she is in my lap, disturbing her slumber by getting up feels rude. Since I am trapped, I sometimes end up writing far longer than I otherwise would. However, if I ever move to another planet, I suppose any sufficiently adorable, lap-seeking extraterrestrial creature will do.
For now, I am not going to another planet, but this month I am moving my brain (and my cat) to a city in South Florida where my husband has gotten a new job. Pompano Beach is about four hours away from where I live now. For the first time, I will be living on the coast, and instead of dreading the move as I might have at one point, I cannot wait to get there – a new experience, a new adventure, a new source of inspiration.
As a general rule, I hate change, but when I moved to Ocala, Florida four years ago, I had a revelation about going to new places. I had been attached to my home in South Carolina and dreaded leaving, but when I got to Ocala and started to write again, I realized that I had not really left home. I had taken it with me. As long as I had a notebook, my memories, and a pen, it did not matter where I lived.
To me, home was a place I could be myself, a refuge from the bustling and clamorous world, a place where I could shed my mask, a stable center like the eye of a hurricane in the midst of relentless, turbulent change.
Writing was like that – my stability, my island of sanity, a way to organize scraps of experience into something meaningful, and I could do it anywhere.
The same was true not just with geographic transfers, but with jarring life experiences such as the death of someone close or depressions or other crises.
For me, writing is not just a job, but a coping mechanism. No matter how awful an experience is, there is always a detached part of me looking on, my writing self, trying to figure out how I can use my experience to inspire my next story.
That being said, my physical surroundings have not affected my writing as much as I would have expected. Before moving to Ocala, Florida, I had imagined that my writing would become shaped by beaches, lakes, palm trees, marshes and aquatic birds.
In fact, when I first got here, I went around taking photographs of everything I saw from the lake in front of my apartment to the ubiquitous lizards that scurried across the sidewalks. I was constantly searching for ways to incorporate these details into stories.
However, most of my time has not been spent outdoors staring at pretty lakes, but in my “box,” writing on my laptop with my cat. Most of my stories have nothing to do with Florida, and I have yet to write a story with a lizard or an alligator in it.
Most of what I have written could have been written anywhere, including most of my stories in my three published anthologies. My novel Paw was inspired by the video game Skyrim. Even my blog posts have barely mentioned Florida; most have been about what I think about most: writing.
Still, I am eager to see if living on the coast will awaken my imagination in new ways. In the meantime I have to pack – fast.
I am looking forward to new experiences that I can turn into stories. What will I learn? What insights will I gain? Good thing I will have a notebook, a pen, and a laptop.
And of course, a cat. Every writer, whether they know it or not, needs a cat.
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