See that amazing view? Yeah, that’s not what I see from where I sit. My office isn’t exactly the idyllic writer’s retreat—unless you consider the kitchen counter idyllic. Hey, if you like staring at a fridge, a stove, and a sink ever-filling with dishes, good for you.
Prior to this, my “office” was the back room of an inner city two-flat, overlooking a trash-filled alley and the fire escapes of the apartments across the way. Not quite the equivalent of a panoramic mountain landscape. My typical choice of views hasn’t been particularly inspiring from a writer’s perspective. But I’m in good company. Some of the most inspiring works were written from what most would consider not-so-inspiring locations.
Much of the book of Psalms was written in caves while the not-yet King David was running for his life. In fact, many Old Testament books were written in the wilderness or in exile, from people facing impossible circumstances. Paul wrote some of his epistles while in prison. And John wrote the glorious book of Revelation as a captive on the Island of Patmos.
Fast-forward through history. Amy Carmichael and George Mueller wrote their greatest works while surrounded by children, faithfully awaiting God’s miraculous provision for the orphans in their care. The faith-filled narratives of escaped slaves like William and Ellen Craft, Josiah Henson, Henry Brown, and Frederick Douglass were written against the backdrop of abolition and impending war. Watchman Nee wrote in the midst of severe persecution from the Chinese government.
So here I am, a captive of my own kitchen. And I realize…the best writing is life-inspired writing. Sure, it would be great to take a trip to the mountains—or better yet, a white sandy beach with palm trees swaying behind me and miles of ocean before me. But some of my greatest inspiration has come from the city streets where I spent so many years of my life, and from right here in my apartment—surrounded by noisy kids, needy pets and a stockpile of dishes.