Good Fences Make Good Neighbors...Sometimes.

In the late 80's, I packed up a single suitcase and moved to Arizona. I lived in a house with a red Spanish tiled roof in the city of Tempe while I attended Arizona State University. My dad bought the house as an investment/vacation home and he would drop by a few times a year to visit. The rest of the year, I resided there with three other roommates. We paid the mortgage and maintained the house...well maybe not maintained, but hey we never burned it down. The home was located in a housing association and there were several 'Rules' of the association that we tested frequently. We threw some parties, the grass in our front lawn was a little too high, and once we flooded our neighbor's backyard. Actually, the company that cleaned and maintained our pool flooded our neighbor's backyard when they failed to close the back flow valve, but we caught the blame from our neighbor.

I considered the 8' high fence that separated our two properties a godsend at the time. It was our DMZ, our no man's land that kept an uneasy peace between young and old. I was a good neighbor (trust me), but the association and it's silly rules regulated us into individual fiefdoms - 'follow the rules or else.' Do you have a beef with someone? Go complain to the Association. What a sack of rocks.

Fast forward to the present...I live in a nice house on a large wooden lot in New Hampshire at the end of a cul-de-sac . I have neighbors, but there are no fences and no rules about what I or my neighbors can and can't do. If something bothers you, you go discuss it in the front yard with your neighbor. You interact, you don't isolate yourself.

The act of writing, at different times, has felt like being a property owner at each of these locales. It's easier, more convenient, and less confrontational to built up your fences as a writer. Isolate yourself, do what you like, and try not to burn down the house. The problem is that you don't grow living on a property such as this, you only build a fortress of solitude. The lack of fences, the lack of barriers, and the lack of excuses make the no fence approach to living and writing so much more invigorating. You need a community as a writer. People to learn from and people to critically look at your work in progress. I think Robert Frost had it wrong as least in terms of writing, good fences don't make good neighbors, they make good hermits who think everyone else is nuts. Then again, Frost wasn't from New England, he was from California.

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