Any time I have an especially chaotic week I try to take a couple hours and escape to the water. When I've had a choice of where I lived I've always picked a place within driving distance of some coast. While I prefer the Atlantic to the Pacific, I think one of the reasons I was so productive as a writer when I lived in California was half the state is just one long beach. I never had to drive more than twenty minutes to be in a creative place.
A creative place is exactly what it says: a place where you can be creative. This is not the same as a writing space, workroom or wherever you choose to practice your art. A creative place is not about the doing of the work; it's a place that inspires you and gives you the time and space to think without the demands of your life and the rest of the world intruding or distracting you.
I know why my creative places are always around water. Water seems to be my natural element, and not just because I grew up in South Florida. For some reason the sight, sound, smell and feel of water has always rejuvenated me. When I need to quickly relax, I take a shower or a bath. When my insomnia is at its worst, playing a CD with the sound of ocean waves, a rushing stream or a rainstorm is the only thing that can help me fall asleep. The only place I've ever visited that completely creeped me out on every level was the desert.
Moving away from the sea to a place where lakes are the only significant bodies of water proved to be quite an adjustment, and at first I didn't like it at all. There is no comparison between walking along the beach and hanging out by a lake where 90% of the water's edges are on private property. Also, lakes don't smell the same, there aren't any seashells to pick up and the only waves that come in are from boaters who ignore the no-wake signs.
Driving and photography helped change my mind. I found a seldom-traveled road by one of the big lakes that quickly became a favorite route when I wanted to look at the water, plants and birds without being charged with trespassing. The first time I photographed a sunset over a lake, the light and the sky and the water conspired to blow my mind. Unlike the sea, lake water is generally calm, sometimes enough to act like a mirror.
Lakes, I quickly learned, are also very quiet, private places. You can't escape the hordes of noisy, nosy tourists at most beaches, while lakes are almost always deserted. When you can find the right spot on an empty public dock or in a small lakeside park, the solitude and silence can feel welcoming, as if the lake is lonely and wants you to pause and relax and think just to keep it company.
I've grown to love lakes so much that I've had to turn in my beach snob card, but I don't mind. I needed to reconnect with the water. I'm always finding new lakeside spots and retreats to love, and over the last couple of years have amassed a nice collection of places to go when I need some time to myself. Occasionally I'll take work with me if I'm planning to be there a while, but most of the time I just got to sit and look at the water and soak up the peace. That's when I get my best ideas, when I'm away from everything that buzzes and rings and demands my attention. If there were such a thing as an ivory tower, I'd build mine next to a lake.
Finding a creative place of your own isn't that difficult; you probably already have one. It doesn't have to be an outdoors spot, either; it could be an art museum, a library, a porch, a spare bedroom, a tea room or a little coffee shop. Where and what it is doesn't matter; it's your place. All it has to provide is the room for your creative side to bloom.
Now it's your turn: where do you go when you need some creative space?