Writing En Plein Air

 How many times have I stumbled across an artist on a dock or in a garden perched before her easel, paint brush poised in hand, and felt a wave of envy? The artist is bathing in natural light and fresh air, transforming them into images on her canvas. Painting en plein air. It even sounds  romantic and exotic. I’ve tried painting and learned that indoors or in the wild, I have no talent.            But I can write, which some say is an art form, while others debate it’s a craft. There are those who say it’s both. I just know I’m driven to write and wondered what would happen if I took my act outdoors. Why not write en plein?My first attempts were during vacations. I remember sitting in a lemon grove in Sorrento, the sun warming my back and shoulders, smelling citrus, but no sense that other people were present while I wrote in my notebook. I breathed in the salt tinged fog on a dock in Maine early one morning writing with cold cramped fingers. I’ve always taken my journal with me to the beach, no matter which beach I was headed to.            When I began spending my winters in St. John in the Virgin Islands, I struggled with how to balance my writing time with beach time. I resisted the thought of sitting indoors at a desk while the sun and a palette of blue skies with enormous marshmallow clouds and emerald green seas beckoned me. My husband and I always seek a spot under a shady tree at the beach, knowing unfortunately what too much sun can do to your health. We began frequenting a spot at the end of a beach with a generous canopy of shade, which fortunately doesn’t attract most beach goers. The ocean is several feet away and most days our only companions are a rooster and an occasional band of donkeys. With a small lightweight laptop with a waterproof cover, a few pens, a notebook and some index cards, writing became more portable than painting at an easel. Welcome to my writing room.           Writers are often encouraged to be open to their senses. See, smell, taste, touch and listen to all that is around you. Becoming conscious of all that was around me, I noticed the rhythm of the lapping waves playing like music, the Tradewinds brushing over my arms and legs, and the smell of the ocean ever present. I became lost in a place somewhere between where my story was taking place and the natural environment in which my body seemed suspended. And I wrote. Lots.            Of course, I didn’t invent writing en plein. Many writers before me have borrowed the practice often attributed to painters from the Impressionist era. While writing en plein is frequently used to inspire the writer’s description of a particular place, I see no reason to limit it. My grandmother used to urge us to “get out in the fresh air.” She was right about it being good for human beings to get out of the house. My agent and writer teacher Paula Munier, who is almost as wise as my grandmother, agrees. “The next time you want to fire up your writing brain, go outside and get some Vitamin D. You know it’s good for you – and your ideas.”             Where would you like to write en plein?  

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