‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside,
Oh I do like to be beside the sea.
Oh I do like to stroll along the prom, prom, prom,
Where the brass band plays….’
Oh no. Hang on. There is no brass band, or anyone else for that matter, because it is absolutely lashing it down and only dog-walkers and writers would be out in this. Dog-walkers because there really isn’t much choice. Writers because we have to experience life in every weather.
I’ll explain what I mean.
When I run workshops for young people I often make them do unusual things.
I ran Creative Writing sessions with some local teenagers recently and I really thought about how to engage them and what Creative Writing actually meant. I decided to identify how we come up with ideas. How we express our individuality.
So instead of starting with the writing we started with the creativity.
Cue: Walking in inclement weather!
We went for a silent walk. No-one was allowed to talk. Everyone just had to notice. Ok we got some strange looks but it was to make a point.
We are all so busy thinking of how we appear, checking our phones, dashing from A to B that we don’t have time to look around us.
Children are particularly good at noticing. They can play with mud for hours. They can stare at the sky and make games of it. They can examine a piece of grass as if it is the most wondrous item the world has ever seen. We seem to lose this ability as we get older and I was determined we were going to find it.
We sat under desks writing things. We sat on top of desks writing things. We sat in corners, got tied to a partner, worked in groups writing things. We were aware, confused, embarrassed, feeling things, creating things. I guess that was the point. Different perspectives. Noticing how they made us feel. The memories thrown up. The things we had forgotten. The stories we were knitting with our lives.
And here’s what I mean (after quite a bit of rambling) by listen to where you live.
What are the noises where you live? Shut your eyes and listen.
For me it’s easy. The sound of the sea is always there. The rain (I live in Wales) is there more often than not. The quack of partridges in the garden. The drone of wood hornets, the shriek of children close by on the beach, the tick of the radiator pipes.
But it’s more than that.
There are histories speaking themselves up from the ground beneath my feet.
There are stories washed in from the sea. I’m talking metaphorically here. Not condoning messages in bottles.
There are words that fit the seasons here that just don’t fit elsewhere. There is salt in the washing when you shake it. There is my house. It tells me its own story.
Sit somewhere different and write your life. Listen to your heart. You are a part of where you live.
You carry that place with you, the good and the bad, and you can choose the bits you want to write about. The uniqueness of you makes the story what it is.
Listening to where you live is a way of listening to who you are. How you react to it. Do you love it or hate it?
Is there something about that place that only speaks to you?
I recently read a book that was so much a part of its surroundings it felt as if the writer had taken her laptop to the middle of a field and written it there. Maybe she had.
I’ve been struggling with a book I’m writing for ages and I realised it’s because I wasn’t listening to what the story actually wanted to be. It’s set where I live and I hadn’t written it in. My town was battling to be noticed and finally…. FINALLY… I listened!
So I know the weather here is questionable at best but listen to your surroundings. What stories does the rain bring to you or wash away where you live? What does the early morning mist hide or reveal in your town? What colour is the night outside your window? How does it sound? How does it feel? Is it different after a sunny day to a cold one.
Put on your wellies get out there and listen to your life. You might end up with someone staring at you and wondering what you are doing standing there in the middle of a storm taking notes or you might end up with a brilliant story.
It’s got to be worth a try!