There are some places in the world that are just personal magic. Different people find their own in different places, but when you find yours, there’s an internal click of recognition and all the accumulated tension floods away, leaving space for real imagination and creativity to take its place.
Over the years, I’ve visited a lot of really beautiful places, many of which work that magic for many other people, and all of which I’ve deeply enjoyed. But the first time I ever visited Wales’s Gower Peninsula, four years ago, I felt that unmistakable click like a key unlocking a secret door inside me.
Nowadays, we try to go there as a family every year. If we were rich, I’d buy a cottage by the coast and go there as often as possible. As it is, we rent a caravan for one weekend every summer that we can, and it’s the best weekend of my year every time. Whenever I stand out there in the waves looking out across the ocean, I feel all the accumulated stress of the year slip off from my shoulders, carried safely far away by the sea water while I’m there…and I feel that unmistakable “click” of creativity being unlocked inside me and letting my imagination out.
Before we went away this time, I was feeling really stressed and also just tired in every possible way, to the point where I wasn’t even sure that this year’s trip was a good idea; I had no energy to spare, whether physical or emotional. Not only was I physically and mentally exhausted, but I’d hit the point where I felt creatively drained. I could keep on working productively on the stories that I’d already begun, but I was feeling so exhausted that I’d hit that awful (and horribly familiar) stage where it seemed honestly implausible that I’d ever think of any new ideas again. (I knew that wasn’t really true, of course – I have been at that stage before! – but the feeling was still strong and hard to combat while exhausted.)
Then we reached the Gower, I stepped onto the beach…and ohhhhh.
By the time we left, less than 48 hours later, I’d written down two new MG novel openings in my notebook. One of them is just fine; the other one has that unmistakable spark, the feeling of simmering magic and so much potential, that makes it a story I will love; a story that will build a whole new world inside me.
I came up with both of those stories on the beach, looking out across the water. On one of those days I had to wear a raincoat, and thick mist hid the cliffs in the distance; that didn’t matter. Creativity just flooded through the air for me, whether or not it was raining, as the waves swept against the sand.
What makes particular places click for particular people? I don’t know. I grew up visiting much sunnier and equally beautiful beaches on the Pacific, lined by palm trees, and they were wonderful. I’ve swum in deliciously warm ocean water in Florida, and I loved that, too.
But for some reason, it’s the wooded, cool and misty Gower Peninsula in Wales that turns the key in my creative heart and lets my stories out like nowhere else I’ve ever been in my life.
Now I have a new story waiting to be told in a few months, and the magical world behind it is building itself in my subconscious. When I left home on Friday afternoon, I was still worrying at the projected edits for my next book, determined but deeply uncertain about how to handle them; when I came back from the Gower, the uncertainty was gone. I could see the new turns of the story stretching out inside me.
This morning, I woke up to find amazing fan art for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart waiting in my email inbox: my characters (Aventurine and Silke) looking fierce and fabulous and perfectly captured on the screen. I was filled with recognition and delight at the sight of them.
It’s definitely time to start writing again. Now, after this weekend, I’m ready.
I’d love to hear about the places that feel magical for you guys, too.