Find your place
A November retreat
Hello and welcome! This is the 77th issue of Place, and this month, we’re trying out something a bit different. Over the past year and a half of running this newsletter, we’ve noticed how strongly the concept of ‘place’ resonates with people – not just with our readers, but with our writers as well. That may, of course, seem obvious. Why would we start a newsletter on a topic we didn’t think people would be interested in? The short answer is that we knew people would be interested, but we didn’t know how interested. At the beginning, it hadn’t quite sunk in for us that place, like relationships or food, is a transcendent topic – something that everyone, writer or not, has something to say about.
But the other thing we learned is perhaps even more illuminating. Working with our contributors and editing their work with them has shown us that place also cuts deep. Talking, or rather writing, about a place, brings people into raw spaces, to parts of themselves they may not have visited before – at least from that angle. Place incites emotion, sensuality, memory, and identity. All of the intangibles that make us who we are.
After their piece has been published, many of our writers have expressed how grateful they were for the process. That they’d never thought about a place in that way before, and that it taught them something about themselves, distilled an inner perspective they didn’t know was there. It’s been a true honour to have walked this road with our contributors, and for that, we thought that this month we’d let you all in on it too ...
Have something you’d like to write about for Place? Or know someone who might? Check out our pitch guide. We really want to hear your stories, and the great news is, we can now pay our contributors thanks to our generous subscribers who have supported us through our membership program. Even if you’re unsure if your idea fully fits Place, please do drop us a line – we’d love to chat.
At Place, we believe that the experiences, sensations and conversations we have as we move about the world stay with us, stacking up as the years go by, forming who we are and the way we view the world. If you’re the social type, follow us on Twitter (@place_letter) where you can share your favourite pieces and Instagram (@placenewsletter) for a visual feast. Yours, The Place editorial team.
I have never had any particular attachment to the month of November. To me, it never seemed to have the same personality as say September, or June, or the promise of a new beginning, as does January. It’s overshadowed by the queen of fall, October, on the one side, and the wintry darling December on the other. November has always been a bit of a stepping stone, a placeholder, a transit stop.
But recently, my feelings about November have begun to change. Lately, I’ve found myself more grateful for the blank slate the month offers – its days almost feel like ‘extras’ that offer no holiday planning (at least here in Canada), no obligatory activities or feelings. So, what to make of these superfluous 30 days? Perhaps, in their modest affairs, they present hours ripe for reflection.
Over the next four weeks at Place, we’ll be giving you a week-by-week journaling exercise, one that engages with questions that have come up while editing this newsletter. Maybe journaling isn’t for you, or maybe you’ve never tried it – that's okay. Our hope is that you meet these questions wherever you’re at, with openness (and perhaps a pen and piece of scrap paper nearby).
We’ll try to build on previous questions each week, to help you dive deeper into a thought, a memory, or a feeling. We’d love to get feedback from you, and perhaps read what you’ve written down, if you feel like sharing.
If you’re new to place-based reflecting, we have a few suggestions that have helped us as we have come up with ideas for Place week after week.
First, give yourself some space. It doesn’t have to be much -- just 30 minutes to an hour will allow you to start reflecting. Maybe an hour in the quiet morning before diving into the emails for the day, maybe a lunch break walk, or maybe even a Friday evening with a glass of wine in hand before going out to meet friends. But be sure to turn off notifications and stay off screens. It will be tempting to distract the mind but this will be something that you’ll just need to sit with for a bit.
Second, just start writing. Anything that comes to mind, get it down on paper. Often we’ll have an idea that feels right, even if it is just a place that we can’t stop thinking about, we’ll just start by describing it and seeing what emotions come up as we are writing and the narrative will begin to unveil itself. We so often stop to reflect more deeply on why places stick in our minds or we viscerally connect to them that these insights are usually just below the surface.
Third, add physical movement into your process. Perhaps you write for a half hour and then feel a bit stuck. Take those thoughts and let them sit, untouched, in the back of your head where they will be sorting themselves out. Go for a walk, leave your writing materials behind. When they are ready to be heard, when your mind is wandering somewhere else, they will find you consciously again.
This week’s questions:
What is your favourite place? Why? Describe it physically, and then describe it emotionally – how does it make you feel and what memories are associated with it?
What’s the first place you remember? Describe it. What did it look like, how did it feel? What were its colours, it’s textures, it’s smells?
What place feels very far away to you at the moment? Why? How does the distance change how you relate to it, the emotions that connect with it, and the way that you viscerally experience it? Can you describe how differently it feels far away as compared to close?
Advice from 150 writers,
On writer’s block.
Join us next week for another reflection.