The Great Setting Round Up: 65 Possible Settings For Your Work-In-Progress!

Dreaming up new settings is usually the last thing on my mind during a drafting marathon... which is why I've pulled together 65 ideas for settings, ready to use! Check them out, and see if you find the next location you were looking for. |

When it comes to inventing settings, I run out of imagination pretty fast. Especially when I'm in the middle of a drafting marathon. I'm spending my efforts juggling characters and conflicts, and I'm not really paying attention to where these characters and this conflict are happening.

Basically, I'd love to just set everything against a green screen and go from there!

But the dedicated writer in me knows that setting is a huge opportunity for shaking up a scene.  

And since many of us are spending November drafting as quickly as possible, I thought I'd do a kind of setting round up, to help all of us out.

I'm not saying that these are all brand-new setting ideas you haven't considered before... but there's probably at least a few that might be good contenders for that one scene coming up.

Some are pretty basic, others are a bit more quirky ... and some are pretty out there. (Hey, why not?)

A lot of these ideas will depend on your characters and your story, and how the prompt would best work for you. Others are more scene elements (like weather) that you could layer into an existing setting to give it a little more oomph.

But whatever you're writing, I hope you'll find some fun ideas here to help you along!

Sound good? Here we go! In no order in particular, what if your scene took place in, on, or near: 

  1. A tree: in the trunk, or below the roots, standing on a massive stump, climbing the branches, or even up in a tree house
  2. A quarry or a mine
  3. A furnace or boiler room
  4. An ornamental garden
  5. Wherever they house the transportation: garage, airplane hangar, rocket storage facility, bicycle lot...
  6. A specialty shop: for glass knick-knacks, ornamental clocks, fountain pens, marbles... (for some ideas, check this, this, this, and this!)
  7. A sand bar in the middle of a river
  8. Any kind of kennel, stable, or animal housing
  9. A poison garden (yes really!) 
  10. A factory—maybe they make really basic everyday equipment, or maybe something ultra fancy and quirky and specialized—or maybe candy. Candy would be great.
  11. The sewer system or some network of underground tunnels
  12. An abandoned/ruined hospital or asylum
  13. A cave
  14. A plant nursery
  15. Your antagonist's favorite landmark: something extra-special from your antagonist's personal history
  16. The place where the people in your storyworld exercise: whether that means a track for running, a place for boxing or heaving weights, or training in whatever way
  17. An orchard or vineyard
  18. On top of something that they'd normally be traveling in: like a train, bus, car, subway, submarine, spaceship...
  19. Someplace where the air isn't good to breathe: maybe after a chemical accident, or a place that vents poisonous vapors from underground, or maybe the scene of a diabolical attack... wherever they are, the air is bad.
  20. A river crossing—maybe a ferry, or a footbridge, or stepping stones, or some kind of natural formation
  21. The place of greatest historical significance to your characters, their families, their government, or their storyworld: where the town was founded, where a great victory was won, where an old hero died, etc.
  22. A hot air balloon
  23. A field of grass, crops, or a pumpkin patch
  24. A laboratory
  25. The house of a person not in the scene... especially if that person would hate that they're there
  26. How about in a sinkhole? (Hey, it could happen!)
  27. Your storyworld's tallest building: put some clouds below your characters' feet!
  28. An immense beach: maybe a scuzzy, sludgy, awful one where you'd expect to find dead bodies, or maybe one that's packed with a zillion people, and, I don't know, a couple hundred corgis? Or maybe a sandcastle-making competition?
  29. A symphonic concert, a play, an opera, or a rock concert. Maybe in the crowd, or backstage, or heck, onstage in the midst of the action... 
  30. A lighthouse, beacon, or some sort of signaling tower
  31. A graveyard, cemetery, mausoleum, or a morgue
  32. At some kind of studio—for ceramics, or painting, or dancing
  33. A desert
  34. An unusual staircase (check out these amazing spirals!)
  35. Standing on ice (because slippery footing is always interesting and maybe even metaphorical...). Maybe in the middle of a parking lot, or maybe the middle of a lake
  36.  Wherever they might be if one of the participants in the scene is in a casket (dead or alive, your choice!)
  37. A greenhouse
  38. A coat closet, storage closet, or locker space
  39. An underground bunker or house—especially if it's deeper underground than your character would like to be
  40. Any place with ancient statuary, whether it's something major, like Stonehenge or Easter Island, or something tiny, and known only to a handful of characters in your storyworld
  41. Some kind of wind tunnel, or any place where your characters have to talk or fight against the wind
  42. In the middle of a lake, pond, ocean, on something other than a boat
  43. A desert oasis!
  44. The set of a film (a major Hollywood production, or a tiny indie film, or even a home movie) or a photo shoot
  45. The banks along a river
  46. An escalator, elevator, or moving sidewalk
  47. The cockpit of a plane that's maybe about to crash...
  48. A stolen boat (or yacht, or pirate ship, or cruise liner...)
  49. The tree in the forest that's haunted, cursed, the oldest, or just plain weirdest
  50. A war memorial or some other local monument
  51. Somewhere "behind the scenes" in your storyworld's most glamorous hotel—in the laundry area or the staff room or the cleaning closet, perhaps?
  52. A museum—whether especially grand, or tiny and quirky, or some specific niche. It could play to what your character most loves or most hates, or whatever most makes him/her uneasy...
  53. At (or behind, or under...) a waterfall
  54. An especially strange forest: maybe one that's crooked, intricate, despairing, massive, or just especially beautiful
  55. A quicksand pit, bog, marshy area, or mud slick
  56. An observatory
  57. In the midst of a mist
  58. At a funeral, visitation, or wake, of someone your characters may or may not know
  59. Or at a wedding, engagement party, bridal shower, or baby shower (and again, they might not know the people involved!)
  60. At the source of a river (oooh, great literary resonance in that)
  61. A rooftop with an incredible view
  62. A library
  63. A "field" of something manmade—like windmills, solar panels, fog catchers
  64. Someplace where the characters aren't supposed to be at the zoo—the lion's cage, perhaps?
  65. Whatever kind of setting is the total opposite of the conversation/action taking place: clearing up mundane information at a soaring, glitzy setting, or having an explosive discussion on the soup aisle at the local store.

And there you go! I hope a few of these triggered some fun new setting ideas for your story. Good luck! 

By the way: if you checked out a few of the links, you'll also see that Atlas Obscura is one of my all-time favorite sites for anything setting related.

They just published an excellent book that I looooooove, and they send out fantastic daily emails if you sign up. Plus the site is just incredible to explore! Highly recommended resource for stirring our writerly imaginations: check 'em out! You just might browse for ages!

PS: And just to clarify, this isn't an affiliate link or affiliate anything. I just love their work and want everyone to know about them! 

Let's Stop Overlooking This Pivotal Aspect of Our (Soon-to-Be Amazing!) Reading Routines

It *seems* like a small, silly, forgettable piece of our reading habits. ... But is it? I'm pretty sure it's gonna be a game-changer for me, and you, and everyone else! |

Sometimes, the most important parts of a routine are precisely the parts we consistently overlook.

So even though today's topic may seem like a silly, frivolous question to ask about our reading routines, I'm convinced that it's worth digging into.

And for those of us who struggle with getting to our reading, it could be a complete game-changer. 

(Also? It just might be the yummiest part of this reading recess series. Ooooh. Gettin' excited.)

All right, lionhearts. So, we know that where we work, and the quality of the place where we write, has a bearing on how we FEEL about doing that work, right?

Our working environment is sending us a message. It might not even be a message we consciously notice—it's probably just under the radar. 

But it is definitely telling us how we feel about ourselves as writers, how we feel about this work, and what our approach to writing is. 

I keep coming back to this truth: that when my writing life feels out of whack, one of the questions I need to ask myself is, has my writing environment gone offline somehow? 

It's an important question.

So... now I want to try something I've never done before. I want to apply that same question to reading.

For the first time basically ever, I want to ask the question: Where do I do most of my reading? 

And, more importantly: What is that space communicating to me? 

See, when I was working really hard to tell myself that reading really does count as work, I moved my reading to my writing desk. I sat upright, typed notes into my computer, elbows on the hard wooden surface.

Conscientious. Disciplined. Focused.

Um. Yes, it did feel like work...

TOO much like work. 

So then I moved my reading practice to my bed. I sprawled among the pillows, covered up with a soft afghan...

annnnd I definitely fell asleep. More than once.

So this month, as I've been powering through fiction, I've felt a bit displaced. Nowhere feels quite right.


I've also been reading The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. (Which, like I've said before, you are going to hear MUCH more about later, because it is the most insanely brilliant thing ever and it is totally changing my life. It's AMAZING. I'm so thrilled.) 


Anyway, Cameron keeps talking about how our artistic nature, our artistic self, is very much like a child.

Bright. Curious. Full of questions. 

And also? Largely motivated by play. By joy. By enthusiasm. 

What I keep finding out as I read, is that: Our artistic self loves to play and make messes. It does not so much love a life ruled by rigid, strict discipline.


So—because Cameron's book has been right about SO MANY THINGS—I have to believe that this is true too.

And that's got me thinking. 

I'm wondering about how to apply the child-like joy I used to feel about reading ... to my actual reading space.

Heh heh heh.

I'm getting super super excited about this. Like, I almost can't believe I'm thinking about it. But: 

I'm considering making myself an all-out reading nook.

With yummy pillows and mosquito netting and heck, maybe even twinkle lights. 

Maybe that sounds silly. Foolish. 

But I know that reading is darned important. (Not to mention, it's basically half of my job description.)

And I know that I'm much more motivated by the idea of reading as play, as joy, as curiosity. That's how I read when I was a kid, when reading was fun and simple and easy.

So, I think it's time to appeal to that child version of me. And ask her what she wants.

And she says: "All of the pillows, and how about adding big cozy pouf? Also, yes to the netting, and are you kidding me, of COURSE the twinkle lights!!"

So that's my answer then.


Well, that's going to be my project in the next couple of weeks. (I have a massively tight schedule for a week and a half, but then: I'm gonna rearrange some furniture and set this thing up!!)

Okay. I'm grinning ear to ear while I type this. I can't help it. Yeah, I'm over thirty years old, but what does that even have to do with it?

Why not have a totally scrumptious reading nook for myself?

... And what about you? Do you have an place that you tend to use for reading more than other places? 

What does it say to you—about yourself as a reader, about the act of reading?

Does it invite you in? Or does it feel cold and strict? 

When you think about a place to read, what's appealing for you? What makes you think, "HECK YES, I'm going to go read for an hour!"

Can you take a little time this week, and make your reading place a bit more intentional? Inviting?

What tweaks would it take, to make your reading area much more appealing? 

If you want some crazy inspiration, I found three roundups of swoon-worthy reading nooks: here, here, and here!  

I'd love to hear what you're going to do!! And I'll keep you posted on how my reading nook comes together. 

I think it's gonna be very much worth it.

Reading report: Yes, I finished the second book of my challenge!! I was a little disappointed with the ending of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. I didn't feel like there was really enough satisfaction to the climax and conclusion. But there were still bits that I liked (especially how he developed the world of Haarlem). Most of all, the experience of reading itself was still worth it. 

I've already plunged into my next bookone I've been looking forward to for a long time: Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, by Lynne Jonell. I read the third Emmy book awhile ago (not realizing it was part of a set!) and I loved it. So funny and charming. I've been looking forward to reading the first book in the set for a while. 

Mmm! Nothing like a good middle grade adventure with a talking rat. Right up my alley. ;) 

How to Bring Playfulness Back Into Our Writing Lives

Here you go, four more prompts for loving your writing life like crazy.

Because writers who love their writing and who give it all they've got will create better books and a better marketplace and better readers with better lives for a better world. 

Whoa. Hold up. Did I just say we're changing the world?

Yes. Yes I did.

And here you were thinking it was just another Thursday. ;)

We're aiming for less angst and more play this weekend. Loving our writing lives.

We can camp out too long in the work and routines and productivity side of things... Every now and then, you gotta let loose and play. Your writing life with thank you. (Four more prompts for loving your writing life.) |

Okay? Sound good? 

Let's go!

February 18: Write a letter.

It is so easy for me to get into a kind of productivity-and-optimization loop.

I'm trying to be a good boss, right? And it usually takes all my skills to manage some kind of balance between really hard work and excellent self-care. Whew!

I focus so hard on trying to do it all that I forget about... play.

About throwing every plan out the window now and then for the sake of a creative romp.

I forget to explore, to go on creative dates, to seek writing adventures.

Obviously, we can't play all the time. We've got books to write! And routines are the BFFs of productivity.

And yet...

Every now and then, the writing life—the creative life—needs a big injection of off-the-wall fun. It keeps us engaged, it churns up new ideas, it helps us be more advanced problem solvers. It keeps us from burning out, getting blocked, hitting walls.

It is super important. We have to take time to play and delight and discover.

What does that look like for you and your writing life? That's what we're going to explore.

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: It's our third Thursday, and so our third letter-writing prompt!

This time, start by saying, Dear Writing Life, I wish we did more of...

And then go from there. Take ten to fifteen minutes, and have some fun with it. Dig around to find what it is that you're missing in your creativity, what you're craving in your writing.

What sounds outrageously fun to you? What kinds of "research" would be incredible? What kind of intrepid explorer-writer do you really want to be?

Go crazy. And fill your letter with all the things you genuinely wish you were doing more of in your writing life.

And then? Pick one. (If they all seem impossible, pick part of one.)

Choose something, and then, you know, do it. 

Try to do some version of it today, or this weekend, or sometime soon. But add a little taste of that off-the-wall play to your writing life.

February 19: Go off on an adventure together.

There's something extra special about going to literary places. Large dramatic libraries, the homes and significant place of famous authors, book-lover festivals... 

Mmmm. It's so nurturing to remember, now and then, that we're part of a much, much bigger tribe of readers, writers, scribblers, creators, storytellers, and dreamers. 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Take some time to go on a literary pilgrimage. This can be as elaborate or un-elaborate as you like.

Maybe you go to a local literary site. (If you're fortunate enough to live near one, that is. But do a little searching before assuming you're disqualified, because you might be surprised at famous authors who lived near by!)

Or maybe you head off to a really glamorous library that's not too far away. (All those books... swoon!)

Maybe you hit your local university's library, but you finally nose around their rare books area. Or you finally go to that used bookstore you've been meaning to check out, and you just get lost for a while.

If you're in the middle of the middle of nowhere, it is totally okay to go online for this, and browse beautiful libraries, or investigate your favorite authorial places online.

(Oooh, look, here are 15 famous author's beautiful estates, and 12 literary pilgrimages, and the Library of Congress recorded podcasts from past book festivals...  ) 

February 20: Word revelry.

A love of writing and a love of reading: it boils down to a love of words. 

Which is why, today, we're going to browse a book about words, just for the heck of it. 

Have you gloried in the entries of a dictionary in a while? And I mean an actual, paper-and-ink-and-binding kind of dictionary, not just entries on a screen. (Shudder.) 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Find a book that's full of words and what they mean. 

Some sort of dictionary or compendium or thesaurus. 

And just play around! Read entries at random.

Pronounce (out loud! dramatically!) all the words you haven't heard of before.  

Find the quirkiest ones. Read up on their etymologies, on the histories of where the words came from, their little family trees.

Summon the kind of mood that makes you want to buy souvenirs on your travels, or pick up river stones while hiking: Read these words with an eye toward taking them home with you. 

Look for words that are beautiful or strange, and pick 'em up. Put them in your pockets.

Write down your favorites and stick them in your writing area. 

Hold on to your delight in words. It's one of the most constant sources of magic we have.

February 21: Tumble into paragraphs.

Yep, the third Sunday of the challenge looks just like the rest. 

TODAY'S CHALLENGE: Get a book and get cozy, and then fall headlong into a lazy pool of reading.

This isn't reading fast, to clock an impressive number pages-per-hour.

This isn't reading to cram for information.

This is reading for the love of it.

So let yourself slow down. Linger over the sentences.

This kind of slow, dreamy reading can be game-changing, by the way. It helped me through one of the hardest times in my life.

During an emotionally brutal year of college, I would sneak off to an empty little common room with a fireplace, and I'd sit there and read, very slowly. I imagined that I could hear the writer speaking directly to me, as if he had written every word just so I could hear it, just at that moment.

... And it wasn't any kind of dizzy gushy poetry, either. It was a few personal essays (from this book) by Max Beerbohm and G.K. Chesterton and E.B. White.

For those hours of reading, I pretended that they were all sitting around me, smoking pipes, and speaking these amazing sentences, making me laugh, and transporting me.

It was like a true teleportation experience, a vacation among literary uncles, and yes, it helped enormously.

That kind of reading is a beautiful thing.

So find some time, and go deep with your reading today. 

You Just Might Empty Your Bank Account After Reading This Post (and book a few tickets!)

If you want some crazy inspiration for your next trip around the world... this is the book for you! |

Yes, I know, I've been recommending a lot of great reads this month! But I couldn't let July wrap up without mentioning this exquisite book: Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman, by Alice Steinbach.

Educating Alice: the next book on your to-read list. |

If you have a stubborn, persistent travel itch...

If you are a perpetual learner, always intrigued by new subjects...

If you--ahem--get a teeny bit bored with travelogues that are only about one place (or is that just me and my attention span?)...

Then this is the book for you! 

Alice Steinbach quit her job (as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist!) to travel the world. Cool. Sounds great, right? Lots of good initiative there.

But here's the rest of it:

Every place she went, she took a class or a course. She went ahead and LEARNED stuff.

... I don't know about you, but that's like the perfect crossroads for me: To travel and to take a course. It gets me drooling. (Have you heard of those cruises that are cooking schools? Just STOP, right?)

Ahem. So. Alice Steinbach learns about gardening in Provence, cooking in Paris, architecture in Havana, traditional dancing in Kyoto, and, among other trips, border collie training in Scotland. (Gaaaaaaaa!!! I can't stand it!) 

In her chapter with the border collies, "Lassie, Come Home," Steinbach writes:

Somewhere in the first ten minutes of my initiation into the art of being a shepherd, I found myself about to be charged by ten Scottish Blackface rams. Not Blackface ewes, mind you, but full-grown males who seemed to resent my attempt to redirect their usual movement patterns. Even from a distance I could see their eyes challenging me, the way New York City drivers challenge a cop who has the chutzpah to reroute traffic on Fifth Avenue. Go ahead, just try it and see what happens was the message I got from their wide-set eyes.

(ALICE. You are my writing-traveling-and-learning HERO.)

I liked her writing style, loved her travel/learning itinerary, and frankly adored the prospect of doing the same thing myself. 

Trust me: if you frequently itch to travel, or if you enjoy being a student, this book will have you daydreaming your own round-the-world learning trip.

... And who knows? It just might change your plans for the rest of the year.

Let's Use Writing to Prop Our Eyes Open

Can notetaking while on your travels enhance both your writing AND your whole life? What? It can? YES! |

So there was this one time when I was in Sicily on a train, zipping around the coast. I was exhausted, disoriented, and exhilarated. (Typical travel state.)

I knew about eight words of Italian (none of which I could pronounce confidently), and I was feeling far away from my ordinary little county of cornfields in southern Illinois.

Mostly I was trying to absorb everything. Everything. All at once.

I tried to catch the scenery with my crappy little disposable camera (this was a lonnnnnnnng time ago). But the camera couldn't get the smell of the train car, wasn't fast enough to really capture the lemon trees outside, couldn't possibly imprint the mix of emotions among me and my friends.

So I put my camera away. I pulled out my journal. 

And I wrote as fast as I could.

I wasn't writing complete, magical sentences. I wasn't framing my experience in lovely, travel-memoir terms. I was just taking notes, as if one of my professors were rapid-fire presenting all this information in class somehow.

Writing fast, jotting nouns and verbs in a mess. Trying to write down everything as quickly as it was happening--

The sheep on the hills, the construction worker pausing as we rattled by, the laundry on wires between houses, the look of the rooftops, all the satellite dishes, the view of the sea.

And now, eleven years later, so many of my memories from Sicily aren't really preserved in the photos I took (though of course they help).

They're in the words. In the frantic-quick phrasing, in the cascade of nouns. The lists-turned-into-paragraphs.

I read that description, and I can remember it exactly, every part of it. The giddiness, the uncertainty, the strangeness, the beauty. And the immediate mad love I felt for the island I somehow found myself on.

So now I never leave home without bringing a notebook (even if it's just a teeny one in my purse). Whenever possible, when I find myself in a strange setting, I try to exercise this creative muscle, this freewriting-meets-notetaking, getting down my raw impressions.

It's one of my favorite-ever practices.

It helps me come up with fresh descriptions. Besides--as any artist will tell you--it's good to paint pictures from life, not from photographs or stale memories. 

But the best thing for me is this:

It gets me into my skin.

When I rely on a camera, I see everything in terms of a photograph. I get panicky about missing shots--that one is beautiful, and then, oh this one is perfect, and oh gosh what about that fountain, and maybe if I line up like this...

I find myself moving from photo op to photo op, missing the feeling of actually BEING THERE. 

(Anyone else get like this??)

But writing is different. When I sit down with pen and paper to capture my surroundings, I feel entirely present. I am fully there, a pure human recorder, getting every sense impression, everything down.

And it gets me to live more fully. 

How great is that? Writing serves your traveling; your traveling serves your writing.


But who says you have to go far from home to practice this?

Here's my creative challenge to you: go somewhere at least slightly unfamiliar--whether it's down the block, somewhere unexplored in your town, or a nearby city.

(Or, hey, I recommend Sicily. Unless you're from there. In which case: have you been to southern Illinois? Because it's super-different.) 

Open your journal, grab a good pen, and just get it down. 

Use your senses, all of 'em.

Not just the smell and the sounds and the tastes in the air, but--does it make you feel exposed and alone, or is it tight and claustrophobic? Is there tension in the environment, or peace? 

What kind of history lurks under the surface? What feels like it's about to happen?

Who knows. You might springboard yourself right into a scene for your novel. Or into a bunch of reflections about your own life.

Or, you just might get a breathless page or two of notes. However it works--it's writing and it's immediate and it's good.

Let's use the unfamiliar as a catalyst. And get really good at capturing the life that's happening around us and in us.

Where will you be writing from? 

Why It's Okay to Look Like an Idiot (Or, the Writer Is a Traveler)

Traveling and writing have loads in common. Most importantly, both pursuits make us new to ourselves. |

Here in the midwest, it is definitely SUMMER. The days are sun-dazzled (or fiercely thunderstorming), and sticky with humidity. At night, the bats and fireflies take over the backyard, and fat junebugs whap against the windows. It all puts me in the mood for ice cream cones, barbecue, the smell of fireworks, and...

You know. A big VACATION.


Besides heat, summer is always synonymous with vacation. Traveling. Getaways.

I love to travel. Soaking in the atmosphere of some Other Place. Listening for the accents, changes in idioms, new conversation topics, or heck, a whole new language.

I like to see how the light feels different, to feel the switch in climate. I revel in all the sights, unfamiliar streets, new architecture. 

Best of all, I love how it changes the air in my brain. You know? Suddenly you're thinking new thoughts. When you're in a new place, a new context--

You get a chance to be a whole different person. 

It's kinda like being a writer.

Yes? Every time I sit down to work on a novel, I feel like I kind of unbutton part of my personality. I do a conscious context shift. I shiver into another kind of skin, another kind of mental place. 

And when I wrap up a writing session, there's that disorienting sense of coming back home. That muzzy, jet-laggy brain. And all the familiar objects seem a little strange, a little off.  

Okay. But then, there's this other side to traveling. 

To be honest, there's a lot about traveling that I honestly DON'T love.

I know. Super un-cool of me. But there it is.

I am not a big fan of hassle. I get a bit stressed when maps are pulled out. 

And when it comes to being daring in new places: I am about one-quarter brave and three-quarters big fat chicken. (I'm working on changing that ratio.)

I know it's very unsexy of me, but I actually enjoy routine, reliability, and certainty. I usually don't love surprises.

Like, say, the massive detour you weren't expecting because you're already exhausted and haven't had dinner and your bladder is about to explode. (Right? Anyone?)

Travel means being out of my element. And sometimes it means, being lost, staring around for some signage, pulling out the dreadful travel guide or phrase book...

Sometimes, travel means looking like an idiot.

Advertising the fact that you literally don't know where you're going or what you're doing.

It means being at the mercy of a whole bunch of other forces. (Rain, poor signage, crappy websites, hand-drawn maps, other travelers, extremely unpleasant restrooms, the locals, the germs of the person behind you on the plane...)


Kinda like being a writer.

I don't know about you, but when I started writing full-time, one of the things I most wanted was an ultra-clear, ultra-calm map. An infallible guide to this whole process.

Some very chill person with total authority, who would step in and say: Don't worry. This whole situation is totally under control. No muss. No fuss. 

But honestly, a lot of writing--for me at least--involves feeling like an idiot. 

Like I don't have the brains to write a clear sentence, let alone a chapter. (And never mind a novel, just don't, because that's like sprinting up Everest alone and without training.)

The writing life is full of uncertainties and massive detours. It yanks me out of my element time and again, forcing me to go somewhere that I'd rather not go. 

Sometimes, I get lost. I scramble for my best writing guides, and have agonized conversations with my best writing friends, and still end up feeling like I don't know which way is north. 

Sometimes with writing, I don't know what I'm doing.

The wonderful thing is that: I know why I endure the discomforts of travel. It's not about the creepy gas station toilet experience. Or the night I was pretty sure I was being sold to human traffickers. Or getting lost late at night in a place where I didn't know more than seven words of the language. 

(Though it all makes for great stories.)

I love travel because the process of it shapes me. Letting go of familiarity changes who I am, and how I see myself. 

And whether it's comfortable or very much not: the experience stretches me, broadens me, makes me new.

And that is worth it. 

(As are the amazing views and wonderful food and instant friends and the crazy stories and other incredible experiences...)

And as for writing: well. I endure the discomfort for the same reasons. 

Because after laboring up the steep hill of not knowing what the heck I'm writing, I sometimes reach a place where suddenly I see. And suddenly I know.

And that just fills me up. It makes me crazy-happy, delirious, and like this is the only thing I want to do.

Right? Have you found that you can go from total uncertainty to total clarity about the themes in your work, or the way the plot will unkink at the end, or who the characters really are... and isn't that an incredible moment? 

The process of writing--it changes me. All the thinking and working and fighting to see things clearly: it all scrapes the edges off of me

Writing--like travel--returns me to myself feeling a bit new.

And that is worth it.

(As are the amazing love of words and the wonderful books we get to read and the instant friends and the crazy stories and other incredible experiences.)

This July, we'll be teasing out the relationships between writing and traveling.

The overt ones (like what to read on a trip; how to write when you're on the road; how travel sharpens our observation skills), and the more metaphorical (like traveling the worlds of our own stories--woo!; or dealing with the culture shock of becoming a writer).

We'll be traveling, exploring, and getting all wanderlusty with our words. 

I'm stoked.

Because I'm convinced that travel can echo, illuminate, and shape our writing--our writing habits, our mindsets, our writerly hearts, and oh yes, our bravery.

Bravery! (You knew I was going to come back to that, didn't you, lionheart?)

So pack a pen and a notebook, gather a bit of courage, and let's do this.

The Mistake We're Making When We Think Our Surroundings Don't Matter

Your writing desk is telling you something about yourself. Is it the message you *want* to be sending? |

Writing seriously for about ten years now means that I've written in basically every possible situation.

In crappy motel rooms and gorgeous hotel suites and cozy b&bs. Crouching on staircases, or in weird back corners. On trains. In boats, planes, and cars. Sitting on a curb, a park bench, a porch, a rickety lawn chair. In concert halls and airport terminals and dingy hallways. 


That's one of those great things about writing, right? Our material is everywhere, inspiration can be any place we choose, and our necessary tools (a pen! a notebook!) are super portable.

We can write in any situation. Any environment.

And while that's super, while that's great, while that's an extremely useful skill to have, I've been making this huge mistake about it.

I figured that: Because I can write in any situation and environment, then my main work environment doesn't really matter.

Meaning: I wasn't putting all that much thought into the way my writing desk/office area looked.

I keep my notes vaguely organized (kinda sorta), and most of my pens and markers make their way into some mugs I have for that purpose--

It isn't an ogre pit, is what I mean. But I also haven't made it a very big priority.

And then I came across the Beautiful Living website by Rebecca McLoughlin. I started devouring her blog posts, especially this great series on spring cleaning and what it means to edit your space. (Not decluttering, but editing. Read about that. It's genius!)

And I had this revelation.

See, she talks a lot about how your space reflects a certain image of yourself and your life back to yourself. 

So you have to look hard at your space and say: do I actually like or agree with this version of myself? Is this the direction I really want to go?

(Think about that a sec. It's a really big deal. All the stuff we have around ourselves: it's all SAYING SOMETHING. Crazy, right? But it totally is!)

I looked around my work area with new eyes after reading her posts. And I asked myself:

Is this the Lucy Flint that I want to keep being? Is my writing space pointing me in the direction I want my writing to go? Is it clean and fresh and inviting? Does it feel both cheerful and yet professional? Does it stimulate my imagination and beckon crazy-amazing stories out of me?

Um, NO. Basically just a lot of no.

It wasn't awful. But it wasn't remarkable.

So this week, I've done a total overhaul of my work area. 

  • I went through my bookcases and found 95 books that I was hanging onto but didn't actually like or want to reread! WHAT?? Ninety-five! That's a freaking lot of books! I pulled them out and now all my favorites (and I still have a lot, so don't worry) have room to breathe.
  • I cleared out all my desk drawers and cluttery spaces. I got rid of the dried up pens and crappy pencils and broken supplies. I recycled this huge cascade of papers that no longer mattered. 
  • I made a ton of decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. (If I ask myself "Do I need this?" I can always think of five very compelling situations where I'll NEED that thing. And then I don't get rid of it. But when I switch the question and ask: "Can I throw this away?" I tend to think, "Yup, I can definitely live without that!" Isn't that funny? Reframing the question totally changes my response. SO FREEING.)
  • And I'm coming up with ways to add more beauty and imagination and quirky creativity to my space. Artwork that inspires stories. Beautifully lettered quotes that get my mind spinning. I've been exploring this awesome catalog of free desktop backgrounds from DesignLoveFest. Totally fun! I'm planning to add some flowers in a great vase. I'm gonna find a gorgeous candle for crying out loud.

I still have more to do before my space is as inviting and stimulating as I'd like it to be. But I'm SO glad I took the time to really look at it and make changes!

I can already feel more mental energy and creativity surging around in my mind. Every time I walk over to my desk, I feel this inner leap of happiness. 

And THAT'S a great way to approach another day of writing!

So what about you? How's your writing area looking?

Can you get rid of anything that's holding you back or reflecting an old version of your writing self? Does anything in your writing space remind you of feeling discouraged or un-confident? Bleh!! Get rid of it!

What would happen if your writing space reflected your most brave, inspired, and delighted writing self back to you? What would that even look like? What kinds of tools would you have? What trinkets and what artwork?

Grab some time today to make a few changes. Kick out the crap. Bring in some beauty. 

The rest of your writing week is already jumping up and down with excitement.

Want a few more ways to shake up your Monday? YEAH, you do. 
Read this post to get inspired to have a little dance party of one.
Tell perfectionism to take a hike.
And use your obscurity to get, you know, super-duper awesome in every way.

It's gonna be a great week, lionhearts.

The seclusion illusion.

The seclusion illusion.

My life is full of so many lovely people, so many good relationships. And I couldn't survive without them. But sometimes... 

Sometimes there are so many voices, so many conversations, and so much activity that my solitude-craving inner introvert just flips out a little. And I start to crave a getaway.

Right now, I deeply desire a bit of isolation.

Now honestly, this doesn't work so well in practice. I spent most of two weeks on my own once, and ended up crying into the carpet. I need people. 

So I cultivate the idea of isolation instead. I snoop through photos that conjure up a mood of loneliness, that feeling of a big fat moat between me and the noisy world. And if I borrow enough austerity, maybe it will bring my mind back to a clear, calm, focused place.

I did some online exploring and rounded up seven places where I can imagine myself into a solitary writing getaway... Which one tempts you the most?

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