Writing and Place

I spent last weekend down in Key West. I hadn’t been there since I was eight years old, when our family still lived in south Florida and my parents would take me to visit their friend (and Ernest’s younger brother) Leicester Hemingway. I had always associated the place with writing because my father loved it so much and all of his friends there seemed to be writers, but it dawned on me over the weekend that the place really does attract a lot of writers. We went to a cocktail party thrown by an accomplished poet. His downstairs neighbor, a successful children’s author, was there. His partner was an essayist and screenplay writer. Our bartender had a book about people and their cats. You get the picture, I think.

Key West is not the only place with more than its fair share of writers. Miami. Vermont. Montana. The Upper West Side. It seems that in some places you just can’t turn around with bumping into someone who puts ink to paper.

But why? Is it nature or nuture? Do some locations cause people to be more artistic, or do the locations for whatever reason attract people who are artistically inclined? My guess is it’s a combination. People who write are probably drawn to the places where they can write best, which are the places that inspire us to write. But then what is that “thing” about a town that makes it conducive to writing? Peace and quiet? A slowness of pace? Other writers? Free flowing alcohol?

As for me, I suspect I’m unlike most of my fellow writers. I write best on airplanes and am easily distracted by peace, quiet, and cocktails. If I lived in Key West, I would sit in the sun with a margarita and think about all of the stories that I would never put down on paper. But today, twelve stories above the sirens and buses and trucks honking on fourteenth street, I plan to write. A lot.