I Can't Write in the Countryside

For years I've had visions of a residency in a bucolic setting, where I would sit in an antiquated room, with my computer as the only sign of modernity, and write my Great Novel. As a devotee of Austen I've nurtured fantasies of long walks, pensive hours of writing and close observation. And I want to have this experience, but recently I've discovered a problem. 

In this setting, no story will get written. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "How could you not love the chance to get away from It All and just focus on writing without any distractions? A retreat is just what you need." I've come to the sad conclusion  that I can't finish my writing in ascetic circumstances. 

Valuing the beauty of nature is not the problem. I live in Portland, OR, one of the most beautiful of the fifty states. Seeing Mt Hood carved out of pink and purple on my Trimet bus ride home is something I look forward to. I repeatedly coerce my East Coast friends into coming here and seeing the natural beauty I enjoy on a daily basis. I go for regular walks and hikes. I put my headphones on and just let the music take my mind with it. I love nature, and how it releases my brain from its usual pace. But I can't finish a piece this way. 

I feel somehow obligated as a writer to love the secluded countryside. I feel pressure to have it nurture my writing. But I have tried writing in the countryside before. I usually go for four hour long walks. Then I come home and write for half an hour, get frustrated, go for another walk, daydream for a while, write in my journal, then get tired and pass out with the cursor blinking at me cruelly from the computer - which will probably still be on, because I'm too tired to turn it off. 

Sadly I love the noise of the city. I write about human relations - all kinds. Friends, strangers, lovers, family. While beautiful, the peaceful countryside doesn't do it for me. I like the instrumentalist practicing a floor below me, I like the car horns. I like the people and ideas overlapping, the ends that don't quite fit, the rush, the contrasting glare. Sometimes it's overwhelming, but that's where I feel...at home. That's when the ideas start jumping. I'll hear something and rush home to create a story around a tone of voice, an idiom, something someone's wearing. I like the complexity, I like the clash. It just...fills me. 

Now I've confessed. I think there ought to be more urban residencies, for sinning writers like me, who need the urban thing to get them going. 


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