Small Towns: Big Inspirations

MarilynDavisatTIERSStarred Page By MarilynDavisatTIERS, 4th Sep 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

“Living in a small town...is like living in a large family of rather uncongenial relations. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s perfectly awful, but it’s always good for you. People in large towns are like only-children.” ― Joyce Dennys, Henrietta Sees It Through: More News from the Home Front 1942-1945

Catching Up over Coffee

I got an email the other day from a friend who, after years of rejections for his novel, got an offer. We made plans to celebrate at our favorite coffee shop on the square. We do not do Starbucks for our serious writer moments. Not that we are opposed to Starbucks, it’s just that our little Inman Perk with its plank floors and piano in the back of the shop feels, smells, and oozes creativity whether writing or art.

On any given day, the Perk serves students researching a paper, reporters grabbing a quick cup before interviewing a city employee, or Ulli Chamberlain who started painting in earnest after retiring.

I like her approach to art and imagination. Brandee A. Thomas interviewed Ulli who believes that coloring books, with their predesigned images stifle creativity in children. “They destroy confidence to create by oneself. We’re basically saying you’re too stupid to create something on your own”, said Chamberlain. Now she is an advocate for creativity.

Nursing my coffee, I got a text from my friend; he was running late. Some women at the table next to me started reflecting on how to entertain their grandchildren and get them off the computers.

Hometown Creativity

I started thinking about my own visits with my grandparents. Around 1952, I had my first spend the week with my Grandmother. She told me that we had a big night and started making fried chicken and a tomato and cucumber salad from the ones we had picked that day. I was so excited that I had helped select the vegetables from her garden. After we had the meal fixed, she let me help her pack a picnic basket. I couldn’t imagine where we would go on our picnic as it started getting dark outside.

She just smiled at me and said, “Let’s go see Jack and the Beanstalk.” If I’d thought about it, I probably would have felt like Dorothy; that we weren’t’ in Kansas anymore, but it sounded like an adventure.

As we neared an open field, I saw cousins, aunts and uncles and just about the whole town sitting on blankets staring at sheets strung from the trees. Finding the perfect spot wasn’t a problem; Mellott, Indiana had a population of only 197 in 2010. It isn’t hard to socialize with that many people -just check your Facebook friends, I’m sure it is at least an equal number.

Yet people did more than socialize, they had conversations. We asked about people’s health, the crops and what was going on in their lives. We also listened.

Although my hometown of Gainesville, GA is 176% larger than Mellott, it still has that same feeling on First Fridays. From 6 PM to 10 PM, people sit on blankets, lawn chairs, drink tea and have conversations while waiting on the local entertainment. Not the 140 characters of a Tweet, but actual conversations.

Conversations: Pick up a Thread and Go with It

The coffee shop is also a place where conversations take place. We all mingle, share dictionaries, or sometimes just yell, “What’s a word for…” and wait for the various responses. A love of words is reinforced with all the dog-eared novels of another age stuck between the cushions of the old velvet sofa or the magazine with pages ripped out for later reading. I’m often reminded of the Friends TV set without the canned laughter and drama.

With a cup of coffee and time to kill before my friend arrived, I watched people writing, laughing and talking. I took the opportunity to conduct one of my random Davis Polls. People are not hesitant to share information in small towns, so thinking of my friend’s insecurities before publication, I asked, “Who is insecure in their writing?”

Susan, a student at Brenau University looked relieved to stop writing and said, “I’m scared this paper will not get me the grade I need. I like my subject and I’ve done in-depth research, but my professor is such a Grammar Nazi that I end up with a poorer grade for mistakes.”

Seven women sharing one laptop started laughing. One decided to respond saying, “Creating a newsletter may not seem like real writing to some, but we take pride in creating informative pieces.”

A reporter asked me if I was eyeing his job or just gathering material for myself. Although I did not know him, we joined tables and started talking about where our inspirations come from. We decided that inspiration comes from observation and perspective and a willingness to put those on paper. Beyond those, we have to find the courage to show it to someone or override our insecurities and publish it.

Make Your Town Smaller for Better Inspiration

I lived in Washington, DC for fifteen years. DC is not known for its small town feel, yet, within my neighborhood, there were shop owners, friendly markets, quaint retail establishments and people willing to have conversations. I’ve used some of those recollections in articles and my memoir. It is not the size of the city that matters, but the willingness to interact with people.

You may get some curious looks if you start engaging people in conversations, or feel uncomfortable the first few times you try it, but you may just get the inspiration you need for your next article. So rather than being irritated that your friends are late, or checking your emails, engage people in a conversation. Try it and let me know how it works for you.


For additional articles by Marilyn Davis

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Credits
Ulli Chamberlin: Interview in the Gainesville Times
Friend's TV set: Wikipedia
Coffee Mug:

Tags

Article Writing, Conversations, Inspiration, Ordeal Or Adventure, Reflective Writing, Small Towns, Striking Up A Conversation, Writers Inspiration, Writing Observations

Meet the author

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
A Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist, with 25 years of abstinence-based recovery. I write about addictions, recovery, life lessons and general writing tips.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
5th Sep 2014 (#)

Refreshing! Okay, let's talk!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Sep 2014 (#)

Good evening, LeRain; and what would you like to talk about today? Sometimes it's just nice to take a break from writing, texting, emailing, and the written word and hear voices. Thanks for your kind words and comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar HacBao
5th Sep 2014 (#)

A shared long, but it's very good

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author avatar snerfu
5th Sep 2014 (#)

So good to read your article again Ms Davis. This one especially is so warm and refreshing -- like fresh buns and tea, if I may say so. I think reading your article is inspiration enough for me.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Sep 2014 (#)

Good morning, Snerfu; thanks as always - the shop also makes wonderful scones, buns and I sometimes opt fot the chai tea, so glad you got the feel of the place. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Mariah
5th Sep 2014 (#)

Guess what I did before I started reading your post?..yes I put the kettle on and made a coffee..so I was 'in the zone' so to speak.
How refreshing to read about this wonderful coffee shop where there is an ambience of
it being 'the norm' to actually converse with people in such a casual and unstifled manner!..I so agree..creativity thrives on interaction with others in all walks of life.. your post is warming as snerfu has said and I just loved reading it.
Thank you for a great share Marilyn.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Sep 2014 (#)

Good morning, Mariah; thanks for the comment. Sometimes I just need a break from dealing with addiction and grammar.....and the conversations at the Perk are the revitalizing thing I need. Glad you liked it. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
5th Sep 2014 (#)

It is so refreshing to read your articles again Marilyn....but ...
there is nothing like having a good old fashioned chinwag among interesting friends on the topics that interest us most ...or even sometimes , those that don't .
Just being in others company or fellowship , and hearing a friendly voice and banter can keep us going when there is no-one else around ...even for us writers .
Many blessings to you and yours
Stella ><

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
5th Sep 2014 (#)

Good morning, Stella; I've been busy creating a web site and doing some content writing for some companies so haven't been here much; thank you for the welcome back. Conversations enrich our lives in ways we may not realize at the time as you point out. Thanks for the comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
5th Sep 2014 (#)

It does not matter whether you are at Starbucks or any small town coffee shop you get that type of feeling But what Starbucks also has are the corporate execs who are not looking to share in the same way. I wonder if that is what planted the idea about buying a coffee shop/bakery when we moved to Canada - yet it was the presence of the fast-food coffee shop giant, Tim Horton's, which upset that plan.

Having a shoulder to lean on is such a great idea and really gives community spirit.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
9th Sep 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Peter; I imagine your shop would have had the same feel as Inman Perk - books and words featured. Maybe it's still in the cards.....~Marilyn

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author avatar Retired
5th Sep 2014 (#)

Enjoyed reading this article, Marilyn. I live in a small town in a country where the people are friendly and sociable by nature. But here, conversations take place in three languages. That's no problem though, we just drink more coffee.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
5th Sep 2014 (#)

thanks Marilyn...nice to see you back...doing something different...

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
9th Sep 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Carolina; sitting there that day, I just wanted to give credit to the little guy. They have created an backdrop for budding artists that has grown into an art show specifically for the up and comings, as well as featuring new music so it really supports all of the arts. Great place. Thanks for the welcome back. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
5th Sep 2014 (#)

Well done! People do like to talk. More people need to learn how to listen. But that takes time. I know I certainly haven't mastered the craft. Congrats to your friend. Maybe you'll share about that book in a future article?

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
9th Sep 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Phyl, as soon as his press releases are ready, I'll include it, how's that? I guess my job made learning to listen a requirement.....thanks for the comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
9th Sep 2014 (#)

Awesoem post and one of a kind writing, miss it a lot and now I'm happy to read your interesting and educative posts, they teach you a lot, my congrats!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
9th Sep 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Fern; thanks. I've got a few more to get posted in the next week, hope they prove as interesting. I appreciate you kind words. ~Marilyn

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author avatar puncakceria
10th Dec 2014 (#)

Informative article. Thank you for sharing this.

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