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Where you write is as important as what you write

Location, location, location. It applies to more than just real estate. 

Settting is a character in its own right. On a recent writers retreat, I organised activities around setting to focus on writing place and thinking about how it impacts the story.

We toured a masseria (a fortified estate) in Puglia, Italy. The sun started to set over the Ionian Sea, giving the grounds an eerie, haunted feeling. We examined old wells made of limestone and walked through botanical gardens full of plants from the other side of the world – agave, Mexican lilies and shot plants. Beyond the well stood a dilapidated orangerie with large, half-empty window frames, waiting to be of service. We had to hurry; twilight would soon give way to total darkness. But, there was one more treasure to see. 

Our guide pushed open a cracked and peeling (though surprisingly heavy) wooden door, revealing a centuries-old hidden church. We stood awestruck, taking in the Byzantine paintings, baroque carvings and religious sculptures.

The church’s exact history is uncertain. Legend has it that a sailor was saved from a storm due to a miracle of the Virgin. He founded the chapel in gratitude. For centuries, sailors continued to pray there before setting off to defend their land against pirates.

Mother and son looking into an old well
Wishing welll

Setting also matters for your creativity. Where is your creative space? Some people like to use a retreat to jumpstart a project or work through a block. Others find working in a quiet library or busy café increases their productivity.

On our retreats, we work and stay in a grand palazzo that we’ll have to ourselves. There, you can wander the hallways, read in the library overlooking the church and stroll through ancient alleyways. Let yourself get lost in your thoughts.

Who knows, the palazzo may even feature in one of your stories!

If you want to unlock the untapped power of setting in your work whilst inspired by art and architecture and want to travel slowly and experience a digital detox, join me and a small group of fellow writers on this transformative retreat!

How has setting figured in your own writing and in what setting are you the most creative?


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