Boubacar Traore. Amadou and Miriam. Tinariwen. Sure, the Malian music playing at our house is cool and helps me write. The best place to write, however, is inside Clara and Ross’s house in Austin, Texas.
The cool white tiles and the big windows out into the yard help me. Plus the sense of being on vacation. I don’t have to worry about the meals. Clara and Ross will take care of that. Give me some French press coffee, pressed by Clara, and the hope of Thai take-out, and I’m happy.
The place where we write affects us: the ambience. Place affects mood.
Even a quiet hotel can be inspiring when you’re on vacation. I got tons of work done at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC when Marco and I were there in February. Most of the creative work took place in my head. We went to the National Portrait Gallery and saw the winners of the portrait competition (Artist builds self-portrait from rice-- sculpture; Musician goes crazy in Whole Foods – paper-mation). Visual art always heats up my literary imagination. Then when we returned to Chapin, and while it snowed for four days, the words poured out of my fingers.
While we were in Austin, we attended some of the South By Southwest free shows on the side. Frankly, the music in Austin is usually a lot better. This time, the SXSW festival sucked up all the good acts and we were left with the crumbs and a bunch of beer guzzlers on the street. One exception: the Andrew Combs band from Nashville. It’s nice to see a cute young man playing some hipster- pleasing country swing music with his friends.
On Saturday night, there was a Tinariwen concert outside. I was hoping for more inspiration. No such luck. We got to see what the singers looked like (skinny French-speaking Touaregs in burkas, dancing scared like deer in the headlights) but their sweet folk music was RUINED by the horribly stentorian amplification. Yikes.
In order to write, the background must include the right kind of sound. Not a beer-blast concert. Not Marco yelling at me and flapping his arms. Yes – Sonia Jacobsen’s album, "Avalanche." Yes, Marco cheering a soccer match in the other room. Yes, Clara making French press coffee and the tropical sounds of birds in the background in Austin.