Thursday, July 2, 2015

Do books live in particular places?

I am trying to slowly refocus on my manuscript. It is a rough sketchy first draft of a thing. I finished it last year. It was hard to write and particularly unpleasant even as manuscripts go (and they are so often unpleasant). I wrote it down in Tasmania, in a poet's shack on the water in a place called Southport. The southernmost pub in Australia is in Southport.

I have printed this draft out and had it spiral bound. I intend to read it right through and see where I am with it. Only problem is I am finding it difficult to focus on the book. I keep wanting to go back to Tasmania. I keep wanting to walk out of my door and onto the frosty sand.

I long for Tasmania like you might long for a family member who is away. After a few weeks of feeling this longing, I am beginning to think that my absent family member is the manuscript alone. Perhaps this book didn't travel back to Queensland with me. Perhaps this book is still living in Tasmania. What if I can only settle into it if I go back to that shack in Southport?

These are irrational thoughts, but maybe there is something to it. Maybe something of a place you are working in infuses itself in the work itself. Maybe certain books can only be written in certain places.  I would be interested to hear if other writers feel the same way about this.

1 comment:

sarah toa said...

There is definitely something to it.

I'm unsure from your post whether your manuscript has a setting in Tasmania, or was just created there, so I'll go with the first bit first.
For me, landscape is soaked in story and I like to live in the place where the story is set while I'm writing. A creative writing tutor once asked our class whether plot, character or setting came first and I answered that my story setting was always given primacy - once that was established, the characters walked in and then, well, off you go.

But it is more than just a stage for actors to walk onto. I know this may sound weird but sometimes I think of landscape as soft furnishings. I've cleaned out a few deceased estates (and lived in the houses for years afterwards) and the couches, carpets, blankets, mattresses and curtains are the first things to go to the tip if they feel wrong; or kept and treasured if they feel okay. I've always felt wherever I am in the world, in the bush or in a dead mate's house, that place is somehow imbued with a history beyond my ken. A palimpsest, maybe?

Second bit: country is an intangible and ultimately unfathomable fount of creativity. I would find it very difficult to rework something I'd created in another space. I would keep yearning to return to country to finish the job proper, as you have expressed.

And then you have the Tasmanian Gothic ...

I really liked this post and the questions you raised. Thanks.