I don’t live where I was born. But that’s exactly why I’ve been so creative the last few years.
I was born in a small, New England town in western Massachusetts. And for the most part, it lacked a certain identity. We hosted the women’s LPGA tour, we have a few popular eateries around the area, but mostly it’s just a small farm town that fails to make headlines — other than when the local sports teams win championships.
A lot of the people I grew up with found ways to leave the small town and find career success. I have friends working in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, and we all graduated together. Finding success despite living in a small town isn’t impossible. But, as someone in a creative career, I can say with certainty that my success began to blossom in full only when I left…
After college, I moved out to Salt Lake City, Utah, where I’ve lived for the last four years. I’ve been on a creative splurge since the winter of 2014 — churning out novel after novel, story after story, article after article. I buried my head down and went to work. And the creative ideas just kept flowing. I have a bookcase worth of novels swimming in my head right now.
I’d be lying if I said a bulk of them don’t come from my experiences at home.
Your home is where you grew up and where you became the person you are. It’s the place where you first had your heart broken, where you worked your first job and where you made your first friends. Every meaningful experience you had in your hometown influences who you are and what you do now, for better or for worse.
For me, this can be seen in my novel writing. Plenty of my stories take place in fictional Massachusetts towns that are filled with fictional people who I might have known. I’ll use actual events from my high school days in my work. In that way, what I learned in my home town becomes tangible, developing into something I’d actually use in my creative work.
But there’s another way the place you came from can influence your creative work: It can give you something to strive for. It can set the bar.
Whenever I’m facing writer’s block and I need to churn out a little bit more work, I think back to my days at home. I think about the bullies in the high school halls, who’d make fun of my size. I’d remember all the girls who wouldn’t date me, or the friends who stabbed me in the back. By focusing on all of these things that I might have once considered failures, I can turn my personal demons into successes. I work harder to prove to them (and maybe more so to myself) that I have a story worth telling. That I am not meant to live in the little box they assigned to me. I am something more than that.
But it’s hard to ignore the fact that hometowns have a way of sucking you back in. Whenever I’m home, I regress in some ways back to who I was before I left town or went to school. I become my high school self, in a sense. And how could I not? When your with old friends kicking it in places that were the backdrop for so much of your personal history, it’s damn near impossible not to fall quickly back into your old ways. But that creative work, the things you created when you had a little distance from home, acts as a symbol that we can move on and is a medium in which we can show people who we really are. Who we have become.
This may not be the case for everyone. Certainly, some people are massively creative without ever stepping foot beyond their city lines. But for some, like me, breaking free from the confines of the role your hometown may have assigned you is the best way to figure out who you really are and what you have to say. Sometimes all it takes is a new vantage point.
I’m not the first to say that perspective is everything when it comes to inspiration… but everyone needs a little reminder from time to time. So here’s yours…