A Different Kind of Challenge by Julie Jordan Scott

Are you ready for a different challenge within this ROW80 Challenge?

Here we go:

The places or settings which fill our writing do something similar – your writing changes according to both the space you are in and the place which provides the backdrop for your writing.

Not only does your new writing space impact your words, the whole mood of your writing changes. Characters you thought you knew intimately suddenly do something downright odd. Why? The atmosphere provides a technicolor accompaniment to the words themselves.

Have you ever imagined what the musical “Oklahoma!” would be like if it were “Ohio!” instead? What if “Chicago”, the play and movie, was instead “Phoenix.”

The people would speak differently, they might move differently – the rules would be shifted due to the culture of the place or the setting of the scene.

It would be like the difference between lounging at home in your pajamas and going out in the community in a velour jogging suit. Both outfits are very similar – but the jogging suit is more appropriate to wear out and about than your jammies are, even if they are very similar.

Let’s go back to the pajamas in the living room versus the jogging suit at Starbucks. How do you write differently in these settings, in these “costumes”?

The places we write also impact the words we choose, our pacing, cadence and rhythm.

Writers have been known to bring their writing gear out into the community. Natalie Goldberg often alludes to her “writing dates” with other writers. They meet in coffee houses and restaurants and scribe separately together.

It is a perfect solution both for more extroverted writers as well as for the sake of accountability. If you have challenges with getting your work done, consider meeting up with a buddy and writing together socially so that you can get your “with people” needs met and at the same time honor your craft.

I took a “write wherever you are” prompt to a spot beside the Kern River. Words fell into my notebook as I sat listening to the river flow past. Listen to my words and imagine for a moment if I had written, instead, from my kitchen table or my porch or at my desk:

I forgot how much I love it here in this hidden space within the river itself.

This is a loud silent place, under a bridge with graffiti on the walls. I love it. The only thing I hear is literally the sound of flow. I see in my notebook where I wrote, “Come write with me you crazy person, write!” Now I hear, instead, “Write this into an essay, Julie! Write it I dare you!” so here, I sit and I write.

When I was under the bridge I realized some people would label this little slice of heaven “smelly.” Never, the words say. It holds an interesting smell. Sort of like decomposition and nature, changing form from one to another. I watch the trees sway above me and I realize I can’t hear the leaves with all this flow around me. I call the sound of leaves in the wind ‘God sounds’ since so often I hear flow in the rustling leaves.

Under this bridge I can’t hear the Sheriff’s firing range that was bothering me while I was above this spot. I watch as a leaf offers itself to the river and a blue dragonfly investigates the trees and settles on a large grey rock so I can see the dragonfly actually has a red body and its wings are blue. I look up and see some of last year’s leaves freckling the green leaves and branches of a large tree above me.

I see a spider web bridging the river, too, echoing this spot where I am sitting.

Later, the web seems to have disappeared, playing a silent game of peek-a-boo with my pen.

I thought I was seeing destruction. I wasn’t. I just needed to perceive from a different angle.

“Now you see me, now you don’t!” giggles the angelic spider web, so delicate yet so hardy.

One of the joys of working in theatre has been the actual building and painting of the sets. When we build the sets, we are literally creating a place from nothingness.

From this set, the entire story is built.

It creates a “concrete” place for the actors and the director and the technical people to realistically portray the lives of their characters.

One day I spent 12 hours in the theatre painting. There was on 4 hour shift standing 10 feet off the ground on a ladder, painting dot after dot after dot to simulate the pointillism method of painting developed by French Impressionist painter, Georges Surrat.

The background created a picture audiences could see – they could understand the character or George better because the audience literally became a witness to George’s painting through the dot-dot-dot-dots everywhere.

The painting – the setting – became as much of a character as everyone else in the production.

This week,  it is time to write someplace differently. Take your characters on a fieldtrip and allow them to tell you how they would feel in a neighborhood bar or a park or sitting on a bench at the mall. It will take your writing in a different direction. Allow the words to flow, like the river flowed as I sat under the bridge.

Go ahead.

I dare you.


Julie Jordan Scott



  1. Thank you for reminding me of the necessity of changing where we write sometimes. I find I need to do this frequently with emotional states. If I have just experienced or am in a certain mood, it helps me a lot when I start writing about the scenes that would be connected with that mood.
    I am also a social writer. It helps me a lot to have social interaction of some kind about the time that I am writing. I just wish that I had folks near where I lived who wanted to go to a coffee shop to write. That’s why I’m thankful for the wordmongering crowd on Twitter. It gets me a similar effect without having to leave home.
    Again thanks for posting. Perhaps I’ll sit in my backyard by the river and see what new ideas pop up for me to write about this week.

  2. This is such an amazingly timed post. Tonight I have a writing date with the London Nanoers, but I’ve been feeling moody and angry and sad all day so was going to cancel. Reading this reminds me how much I get done when I go there, and I just know if I’m still feeling down later, a couple of thousand words written will pick me right back up. Thanks 🙂

  3. I sometimes write in the living room with my laptop in my lap.Sometimes I write in my office that I set up just for this purpose. But we’re going to have some unseasonably warm weather the next two days, so I might just take my laptop out onto our deck. My backyard is small, and beyond that, there’s nothing but woods. And I have a birdfeeder out there. I think it would be a great setting for writing.

    1. My Writing Porch has always been a tiny slice of nature right attached to my house. I love watching sunrise from there. Your yard sounds great.

      Funny – my little indoor writing nook seems to have gotten a fresher smell from reading your comment! :~) Let me know how your outdoor writing fares!

  4. What a great idea! Back before I realized I am NOT a salesperson, I tried several direct sales ‘businesses.’ One of the most important things a supervisor stressed to me was the importance of ‘dressing the part.’ Even if we were just making calls from home we needed to be dressed nicely, makeup and shoes on…and SMILE while talking to people. People who couldn’t see us.

    So making sure our environment is just right, and we’re dressed like we mean business, can help us do our jobs better. I’ve been meaning to get a new battery for my laptop, too, so I can spend some time writing at our local coffee shop. After reading this, I think I need to make a better effort to do that…instead of just ‘planning’ to do it someday. 🙂

  5. Thank you for reminding me what I love about writing… so much of it is about exploring. Too often I sit at the same computer desk staring at a screen, and I wonder why my Muse isn’t showing up. I’m going to take your advice and go on a writing field trip soon. Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.