A Change in Setting

Last week I was in Philadelphia helping my daughter move. A few days before I got there I finished the first draft of my current WIP, and I was at loose ends—between projects and figuring out what I want to write next.
Of course there’s still plenty to do with revisions so I have some time to think about it. But my writing mind was restless and searching, and the change in setting gave me the feeling of a fresh start, with lots of new ideas to think about.

I live in a small town with quiet tree-lined streets. My usual view is out a window toward a bird feeder, and my daily companions are birds and squirrels and chipmunks. My seat at the dining room table (where I write) is on the first floor of our house so I look out at the same level as these furry and feathered creatures.

My furry feathered friends.
In Philadelphia, I was on the sixth floor looking out over a cityscape view. I had a great view of the changing skies, parking lots below, many varied buildings, people walking by—even a party gathered under a tent in one of the parking lots. In short my setting was completely different than the one I was used to.

Inside, too, my activities were very different. At home I write and then I take a break to exercise, eat lunch, then I write some more. I lead a very solitary and quiet daytime life (of course in the evenings, MEH—My Engineer Husband—is home). But in Philadelphia, as we packed and cleaned (okay, to be honest my daughter did most of the packing and cleaning and I helped out as requested) we watched the Olympics, we talked and laughed, we listened to music, we went out to eat, and we moved the car to keep from getting tickets (okay to be honest, I moved the car, AND I got a ticket. I swear I didn’t see the fire hydrant I partially blocked…sigh…).

It was a good time to have a change in my venue and activities, having just finished the first draft and all. Not only because it helped me clear my mind, think about something other than what I had just finisheda step away before starting to revise and edit, but also because I came away with a lot of new ideas. 

Things I never would have thought of in my own little world. Ideas from my observations out that sixth floor window. Ideas from all the people watching—lots and lots of people. Ideas from riding up and down in an elevator and sharing a larger space with others—instead of simply walking in a door and being home. Ideas from a change in setting.
Are you, like me, restless and at loose ends after you finish a draft? What do you do to inspire new ideas and to move on to revisions? How does a change in setting inspire your writing ideas?




  1. Erika Marks says:

    Yay, friend! I was just going to send you an email to see how the WIP was coming along, and lo! This news! What a wonderful way to celebrate your completion by spending time with beloved family! This is an exciting time–I always love after the first draft is done because then I feel like I can dig even deeper and I know with every pass the manuscript will get stronger. Cheers to you, my dear! Can’t wait to hear where you go next!

    • It was a perfect way to celebrate and put the WIP out of my mind for a while. And this is the first time I’m actually looking forward to revisions–they were in my mind the entire time I was writing, actually. So, I agree, it will only get stronger. Thanks for the congrats, friend 🙂

  2. It’s finished… yay!

    I definitely find that I have more to write about when interesting things are going on outside my writing. I think a change of scenery does help bring perspective and fresh ideas. It seems like just the thing to recharge your batteries before you dive into revisions.

    Now I’m really looking forward to my next vacation.

    • It was such a huge change that it recharged my batteries while at the same time distracting me big time! 🙂 Thanks for the WIP encouragement and support, Shary! (And can’t wait to hear about your next vacation!)

  3. Congrats on WIP completion. Woo hoo! You are on FIRE! What is it about change of scenery that makes things flow so much more smoothly? My change of setting was a necessity as hubby works on a construction project that is WAY distracting as air guns go “tck” “tck” and shop vacs hum – so I found myself at a nearby library for three days last week working on my WIP (ok – NOTHING in nearby me. I had to drive 30 miles). Just being someplace new not only helps with creativity, but sometimes it just helps with overall focus. Good for you!

    Can’t wait to hear about all those new ideas floating in your mind!

    • Nothing like air guns to facilitate a writing project — eeek, no wonder you had to change your venue, even if it was 30 miles away! Thank you for your congrats on the WIP and for your writerly support and encouragement. 🙂 Here’s to new ideas and more fires!

  4. I always love the chance to get away from my usual setting, so I so relate to what you wrote here! I especially love getting away to any kind of waterfront: my uncle’s place in Maine, or traveling with my husband to a lakeside. There’s something about water that really gets my creativity going! Congrats on finishing your ms!

    • I’m with you, Christine, anything waterfront or lakeside is an immediate creativity booster, no question! Thanks for the congrats on the ms — and here’s to creativity all around!

  5. You finished Maggie?! WHOO HOOOOOO!

    I can totally relate to the restlessness and gush of inspiration from your change of setting. During our vacation to old stomping grounds in June to visit family, we realized that it’s such a Duh: we need to move back to Taos, New Mexico.

    The move date is still undecided (hopefully this fall) but the mere anticipation of this change of setting has already caused big changes in my inner world, as well as my outer plans. And it will give me tons of new material for my writing and writing-related endeavors.

    • Yes, Maggie is DONE!!! (Well, draft one anyway) Very exciting. I’m so happy for you that you figured out where you want to be–that you need to go back to Taos! Wonderful! I know exactly what you mean about the anticipation being incentive to write and create–a little bit of shake up and excitement is always good. So happy for you Milli!

  6. E.J. Wesley says:

    I’m very similar, Julia. After a draft is done, I’m like, “What now?” Definitely taking a trip is helpful. Like you, I spend quite a lot of my writing time in solitude, so just exposing myself to people and different settings often gets me eager to head back to my quiet place. I also like picking up a book or two on craft to read in between revisions. Can be technical or inspirational in nature. Basically, anything to get me thinking about why I love to write, and how I can get better. 🙂

    Glad your daughter is moved in safely, and that you were able to spend some of that time together. I’m sure she is excited for the transition, and that was probably fun for you to be a part of. (Even the tickets! lol) I’ve never been to Phili, but my wife has and really enjoyed it. I’m a history nut, so I bet I’d enjoy it, too.

    • I’m glad you understand, E.J. — it’s so weird, isn’t it? That kind of restless let down? And you definitely expressed my feelings: “just exposing myself to people and different settings often gets me eager to head back to my quiet place.” Exactly.

      My daughter is home for a week getting ready for heading back to college, and the time together is absolutely fabulous. And she is recharging too while excitedly looking forward. Yes, happy to be a part of. The ticket was unfortunate (and expensive) but pretty funny in retrospect!

  7. Rivki says:

    Woot! First draft! That’s fabulous. I love both those views. Nicely contrasting.

    My WIP is musical (a sonata), and I find that when I finish the first draft of a movement I move right into editing, but I have a hard time stopping. There’s always something I could tweak, fix up, improve upon, etc. The only thing that stops me is actually sending it to the client. Then I find that I have a hard time starting the next movement.

    Thanks for reminding me to make a change in my routine/location to help get my juices flowing again.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed both the views, Rivki! I think you’re the first commenter to my blog whose WIP was a musical — so exciting! I’m glad I gave you an idea for how to start the next movement! But I agree with you. It’s hard to stop tweaking and fixing up — that’s the stage I’m moving into now. We’ll see how it goes. Thank you so much for your comment and especially for your visit to my blog!

  8. I’ve often thought I’d be a dull writer if I didn’t have the stimulation of having to work, and all the different characters I meet throughout the week because of my job. All the different and unusual places my job takes me to. But I still feel envy for people (like you!) who don’t have jobs and have lots of quiet solitude to work on their writing. It must be wonderful! And it’s easy to imagine how a trip to help your daughter in a big city is like a tonic, filling you with fresh energy and ideas, Julia.

    • Hi Cynthia! I always forget that there are people who have the daily stimulation of other people — haha, me and my solitary life… one of the definite upsides to working is the daily characters, so I envy you that. It’s wonderful to have the solitude, yes, but every once in a while it becomes overwhelming. And then you’re right, the city trip is a tonic. Glad you understand! Here’s to fresh ideas from any source possible, right? 🙂

  9. Emma Pass says:

    I always feel at a loose end when I finish something. I never know what to do with myself! It’s good to have a break (mostly so I can catch up with all the stuff I’ve ignored while I’ve been writing), but I don’t feel like myself until I’m busy writing something again. I also like to get out and about in between projects – it definitely helps to do something different so you don’t get stale.

    Congratulations on finishing your first draft, and I hope your daughter’s settled in now. x

    • Glad to meet another “loose ends” after finishing person, Emma! It’s good to catch up on stuff, but this was the first time I left town as soon as I finished. And there was a certain amount of finality to it that I liked. Usually I’d still be tempted to read over what I wrote, but I left it all at home. And even now I’m waiting for a quieter time (kids and their friends home right now) to look again at it. Thanks for the congrats and ongoing support! And glad you understand! 🙂

  10. Way to go, Julia! Is this your second completed WIP? I’m so proud of you, and I completely agree that sometimes it’s nice to see a new surrounding for creative stimulation.

    • Thank you Jolina! Yes, indeed, this is my second completed adult WIP (I have several middle grade novels “in the drawer.”). I so appreciate the support and encouragement. Here’s to new ideas from new surroundings!

  11. Well, I can’t relate at all to finishing a draft of a novel, but today I handed in a story. My house is a wreck and I feel like I did at the end of finals in college. Blah. Now I usually rebound the next day, but it is funny. Even with just a 1000 page article I’ve worked off and on with the last two weeks, after I turn it in – I find it almost impossible to concentrate on other focused writing. At least for a day or so. Which is good because I’ve got to straighten this mess tomorrow.

    • It is amazing, isn’t it, how out of control the house can get… I didn’t talk about that in this post, but I know exactly what you mean. My house still looks like a disaster area, and all five of us will be crammed around the kitchen table because my work is still all over the dining room one. Here’s to rebounding from the mess… send positive thoughts my way. (Or maybe I’ll just rebound into the next intense writing phase 🙂

  12. Barb Riley says:

    Love seeing the pictures of the crowded birdfeeder+city life all in one post! Yay for your finished draft! And yay for time with your daughter and watching the Olympics! Last week my son & I went to the Art Institute b/c there is a specific Picasso painting I needed to see for my WIP, and every time I take the train into the city I wonder why I don’t do it more often…The change of scenery from suburbia to the city completely inspires me. Summer is winding down, and I hope to get back into a regular blogging/writing schedule when my kids return to school. Your post reminds me that I just might have to plan some solo trips into the city to revive the creative side of my brain!

    • So glad you enjoyed the post and that it inspired you, Barb! I always wonder, too, why I don’t do these kinds of excursions more often — it seemed so overwhelming at the beginning but it ended up being inspiring, as you say. Have a wonderful end of summer with your kids; I’m enjoying my family time, too! 🙂

  13. You’re amazing. Congratulations.

    I think I might get more done if my husband wasn’t also working from home. (He seems like an easy excuse anyway.) I’ve really had trouble settling down and getting to work this summer. I do hope some resolve sets in soon.

    It sounds like a great fun time there in Philly with your daughter. How I cherish those kinds of times and the memories they make.

    Keep up the good work. I can’t wait to read another. Let me know when you are ready, if you want any readers.

    • You’re such a sweet, supportive friend, Christine — thank you! You’ll find your writing groove again, I know it! And yes, those Philly times are wonderful and cherished. We have such fun together! Thanks for the encouragement, and I’ll be in touch 🙂

  14. Well first off, congrats on finishing your first draft! And yes, I absolutely feel restless and at loose ends when I finish a big project like that. And I usually feel a new surge of energy when I travel, too. I came up with several of my novel ideas when I was on vacations. I’ve never intentionally changed it up to give myself inspiration, but the correlation is obvious, so maybe it’s worth a shot!

    • Thanks for the congrats! And it’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels restless and at loose ends after finishing. As for traveling as inspiration — I agree, it’s worth a shot. 🙂

  15. What a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with your daughter! I’m so glad you had that. We’re going to Philadelphia next month because George has a conference. I’m so excited! We used to leave in the suburbs there, and our youngest was born in Bryn Mawr, mainline Philly. Maybe my trip will actually make me start working on my novel again so I can actually refer to it as a WIP and mean it. Congratulations for getting another draft completed! You are on fire!

    • Thanks for your writing support and congratulations, Susan! It was a wonderful trip with good times with my daughter 🙂 Here’s to Philadelphia being as inspiring for your WIP as it was for my writing!

  16. New experiences and locations are so much fun for the creative mind, Julia! And as big as finishing the draft is (congratulations!), I can completely relate to the feeling of wanting something new and fresh. Besides, a resting period between finishing a story and editing it is always useful. Have fun with your exciting cityscape inspirations.


    • Thanks for the congratulations! It is exciting to move onto something new — even as I look back and feel a little sadness the WIP writing portion is over. Right now, as I’m between projects, I can feel the resting period getting old 🙂

  17. What a fabulous experience for you, Julia! I nearly always have a few things on the go – though some take more of a back seat, so when I’ve finished one thing I launch back into another. Like you, I find different places completely inspiring. They trigger ideas that seem to have been lying dormant and whose existence I didn’t even know about. Good luck with the edits of this one, Julia, and I shall look forward to hearing about your next project.

    • Thanks for your writing support, Abi! I think if anything my mind is too cluttered with ideas right now — so I guess it’s a good thing that my first task is the editing and revision of the WIP! Then, like you, I’ll launch into the next!

  18. It’s funny– I get restless after I put a post and don’t “have to” work an another one for a week. I haven’t finished an entire draft of a WIP in a few years . . . I can’t believe it’s been that long already.

  19. Lisa Ahn says:

    Wow! This is your second finished WIP this year, right? You rock! Congratulations 🙂
    As you know, I’ve been slowing down, so I haven’t finished much lately. I find that when I finish a non-fiction piece, I just want to get away from writing for awhile. The opposite happens when I finish a fiction piece — I want to keep writing, switch to another project. Strange.
    I always get new ideas from a change in scene, though, especially if there is a chance for people watching, and eavesdropping.

    • That’s so interesting that you have a different reaction to fiction vs. nonfiction, Lisa. I haven’t written nonfiction (aside from the blog) in quite a while… and the blog is a constant, so I’m not sure if it’s the same for me. It sounds like you’re like me that fiction is a bit addictive–the more I write the more I want to! (And people watching and eavesdropping are DEFINITELY a requirement wherever I am 🙂

  20. Congrats on finishing your WIP! That’s quite an accomplishment. A change of setting is a great way to mark the transition from one project to another.
    I like to use a different setting to jolt my creative self if I’m stagnant for too long or if I’m having some kind of block. Sometimes a change of pace is great to have some uninterrupted time to write – which I can’t always get in at home because there are too many distractions.

    Love the view from your window!

    • Thanks for the congrats, Jackie! Sounds like we’re very much the same way because the change in setting felt exactly like a marking of the transition. And I hadn’t thought of it the way you describe it as a jolt, but that’s what it felt like — a jolt out of one mind set and into another.

  21. For me it’s usually just about getting some time/space. A change of scenery or a mini-vacation is a great way to do that! 😀