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Missing Your Creative Haunt?

Heather Hale explores today's writer's life and where writers go to find a sense of community.

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Are you going stir crazy with lock-down cabin fever? Sick of sheltering-at-home, binge-watching TV? Around the world, people are chompin' at the bit to get back to "normal"(-ish) but writers - especially - are pining to get back to a precious part of their writing routines: they've lost their "third places" - and the sense of connection that came with them. 

Hopefully your #1 place - your home - is safe and comfortable. If your 2nd "place" is wherever you "work" (generate income, volunteer or spend the next largest amount of time): where's your 3rd place?

Where Do You Like TO GO Write?

Where's your favorite place to write? Or just get away for creative inspiration?

Where's your favorite place to write? Or just get away for creative inspiration?

Coined by sociologist and author Ray Oldenburg, these...

..."third places" or "great good places" are where people can gather, put aside the concerns of home and work and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation. They are the heart of a community's social vitality and the grassroots of a democracy." ... "Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community."

3rd places are where many creatives wish they could be right now. Not just writers, but directors, song writers, composers ... painters, actors, choir singers...comedians. 

If sheltering-in-place has taught us anything, it's reminded us how much humanity needs ART - TV, books, music - for solace - both input and output.

As our personal spaces become evermore precious - and the lines between our private and professional worlds blur evermore every day - colliding, merging and morphing - so, too, do our identities intermingle. Work obligations bubble up in our stream-of-consciousness morning pages while domestic chores and errands hitchhike on our endless professional project management task lists. As routines are disrupted and schedules decimated, marriages, business partnerships - all relationships, really - are strained. Juggled obligations rejigger priorities.

Now is the perfect time to appreciate important these precious pockets of humanity are to our collective well-being. We must all take a beat and really think about how we might preserve and protect these safe havens. Live music performances, theaters, film festivals and comedy clubs are just some of the venues where we all congregate to connect, to be entertained and inspired, to find meaning and purpose. We don't want to lose those timeless gifts.

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Where Are We to Go (Whenever We Can Again)?

Does the white noise of strangers help you focus? Do you have a favorite coffee shop you like to write in? Or do you prefer to camp out in a comfy booth in a 24-hour diner? Does strolling through a peaceful garden help you work through writers block? Does hiking a popular trail invigorate your imagination? Are Artists dates in museums soothing or stimulating to you? Do you get character and dialogue ideas by people watching at the airport or subway station? Do storytelling epiphanies come to you while stretching and meditating in yoga class? Bookstores and video stores used to be second homes for many writers - not to mention great places for blind dates! When deadlines - self-imposed or not - dictate study hall lockdown: there's always the library!

Where do you find community outside of work or home? The Master Gardeners? A watercolor group, koi club, Sweet Adeline's a cappella choir? AA? Weight Watchers? Your church, synagogue or mosque? The 4H, PTA or your kids' favorite playground? The dog park or beach?

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Or somewhere in the middle? Where is your safe place to unload and unwind? The hair salon or barbershop? A friendly dive bar or coffee house "where everyone knows your name"? A greasy spoon where you can read and write at your leisure over comfort food?

Like the characters we write, we are three-dimensional. A two-legged stool will collapse. We need something other than the relentless cycle of home-work-home-work-home-work-home. It's unsustainable. Without something - somewhere - else.

Where's your third place?

Find it.

Create it.

Write it.

If it has to be virtual for a while, of course your screenwriting tribe is always right here on Script. Other online "homes" where you might find community include: Sundance Co//ab's great Writers CafeThe 100 Day Project, NanoWriMo, Stage 32, LinkedIn, Meet-Up, online festivals like We Are One: A Global Film Festival (FREE ONLINE on YouTube 5/29 - 6/7). (Tons of other online resources were detailed in my last column).

Video conferencing has become a 3rd place for many.

Video conferencing has become a 3rd place for many.

Third Place as a Story Setting

Think about what's important to you about that "Third Place." What kind of people would populate it? Shows like Cheers, Friends, Wings and Barbershop were born out of these "third places." Seattle was the birthplace of Starbucks which has burgeoned around the globe into almost a cliché third place. 

Even after this crisis is over, there will be others - certainly several "unprecedented" (the overused word of 2020) in novel ways. But when everyday life returns to "normal" (-ish), writing will still go on while child- or elder-caring, at the in-laws, snuck in while traveling. 

WRITING PROMPT: Write an original series concept inspired by a unique third place populated with intriguing characters and their inter-relatedness. 

IN THE COMMENTS SECTION: please feel free to share what third places you're missing right now - and why. How do you recreate the key ambiance of your "happy writing place" when you can't access it?

More articles by Heather Hale

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