Big Sky, Magic Fire

I’m often asked where I write and what inspires me. My answer has always been that I like to write outside. Pedantic, though true enough. But that isn’t the complete answer. As a writer, becoming really clear about what results in the creation of my best work requires inner transparency, clarity, and honesty. It begs experimentation. It demands I listen.

I write “outside” in a variety of spaces because in order for me to release—or even find—the words from inside me, I need inner space, away from my Type A self and the myriad reasons/stressors that I can find, gather, or manufacture as an excuse not to write. So the question of where and how I am most creative, and its honest answer, is important.

I’m going to try to answer it.

Today I am awake in a completely dark house. It’s 10 degrees outside and snowy. With the windows around me, curtains back, and no houses in my vantage point, I feel as though I am out there, even though I am toasty warm inside on the couch by an old stove.

The sun is about to rise.

The badlands to the east are a dark heartline against the lightening sky. There’s an ohm-like hum as pink and orange seep upward, infusing the underbelly of barely blue clouds and splashing out over the snow-swept slopes of the Bighorns. The hum rises in pitch and intensity. Slowly, the Big Sky catches fire in a ring around the Earth. Deer rise in a graceful dance, tails and ears twitching as they listen, button noses high, seeking messages from the Wind. The hum reaches its crescendo, a hallelujah chorus to the morning, and the colors thin out, melting into a liquid gold that trickles overhead. The Fireball rises over the horizon, and the grateful world kneels at its feet. A chimera shimmers and I catch it in my startled chest. The exultant chorus gives over to the sweet morning song of the prairie birds. The day has begun.

My day has begun, and by participating in this timeless ritual, my heart has been laid open, my mind cleared, and my core exposed to the essence of Place. In the span of this sunrise, the chimera—the collective histories of all that was before me—has seeped into me. Because of this place and its miracle, what was empty in me is filled. I’ve stolen a piece of magic from the sky.

So it turns out that I need the outdoors for my writing because it fills me with iridescent magic before the everyday can mire me down. That magic becomes words on a page if I move quickly enough to capture it before it fades away. I may be writing about Texas or the Virgin Islands or New Mexico, but this time spent in the great outdoors of Wyoming will move through me long after I leave. It’s not a coincidence that I was able to finish the revision of Hell to Pay or that the outline for Fighting for Anna and that the brainstorming for the Ava trilogy and writing of the Maggie books went so well in Snowheresville, WY.

And that is my answer. That is where I write, how, and why.

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