Where do you do your best thinking?

     I love coffee and I love walking. As often as possible, I mix them with my best friends and we have a chat. It’s that simple. And yet, I rarely come away from our chats and danders without a new story or the guts of an idea that I want to try out.

     I think it’s part company and part setting. And it raises questions about where I and so you, do our most creative thinking.

     NOTE: Yes, sometimes it’s simply a caffeine buzz gone awry.


Slurping on coffee, my friend started talking about an idea. He called it, “Location Outlining”. At first, I imagined he was expanding on the process of outlining a story by going so far as to outline the settings in which the story takes place.

     This is not a bad idea. I already do a version of this anyway.

     But what he meant was, working somewhere else, outlining the story in a setting reminiscent of the tale in some way.

     Of course, writers have been doing this forever, but like many other writers and creative types, I see myself as an absolute bluffer. Heading off somewhere to consider a story is what real writers with the backing of publishers do. Not people like me. I sit in my room, or at a desk, or when hiding from my children (sometimes it’s a game of hide & seek, sometimes it’s simply hiding from their ability to throw something and it magically finds my groin) and think about the people and worlds of my tales.

     But surely being somewhere different, somewhere closer to the story will help to add depth to the tale? I think it does. I think someone writing about Rome would be well served with a trip to the Eternal City. But we can’t all afford to drop everything for a week or more to soak up the atmosphere.

     So, what can we do?


I plan on taking a wee trip south to the Wicklow Mountains next year. It’s not a holiday, it’s a work excursion. I have a list of tales to tell and one of them (tentatively titled, The River) is set along the Shannon River in the early twentieth century. It’s about hardship and loss (because I’m Irish), love and sacrifice (because I’m soft like that) and the way we try to suppress our darker thoughts when we feel isolated (again, because I’m Irish). So, I want to spend a few days by Lough Dan in Wicklow, far from home and in a beautiful but rough and barren place.

     Do I need to?


     But, but, you said, earlier, the whole, soaking up the atmosphere, well served by a little trip, espressos by the Trevi Fountain!

     Nope. Well, yes, I said most of that. Though I never mentioned espressos by the Trevi Fountain. That was all you.

     See, I’ve already outlined The River. I know who the people are, I know who lives in the village, their secrets and longings. I know how it begins and where it’s going to go. And I did that without leaving my desk.

     Sometimes we forget just how powerful our minds are. We forget that as machines go, nothing beats the brain. Tweet:   Sometimes we forget just how powerful our minds are. We forget that as machines go, nothing beats the brain. http://bit.ly/2vBNBq1 Our imagination? Well, it’s limitless. We only have to close our eyes to visit alien worlds or watch dragons battle. I helped the process along by terraforming my head space.

     I played a lot of Florence + The Machine to get the vibe, and listened to and watched Céilí bands. I read peoples accounts of the Irish Civil War and some letters from those communicating with friends and family who emigrated. I worked mainly in the spring and used candles when I could.

     I created a little bit of my countries past around me.

     Where we are, who we are with, how we feel, these things matter. Both to our physical and mental well-being, and also to how we see the world. If we want to adjust that view, we can. Add some music, burn some incense. Change your computers wallpaper to an image you associate with what you are trying to envision. Read the works of others. Building worlds start in your mind. So prepare that space and seed it with ideas, then watch it flourish.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *