Critical Distance Writing

N. Scott Momaday once wrote:

'In 1974 I accepted an invitation to teach at Moscow State University, and I lived in Moscow, in what was then the U.S.S.R. for six months ... something about that time and place made for a surge in me, a kind of creative explosion. I wrote numerous poems, some on the landscapes of my native Southwest, urged, I believe, by an acute homesickness.'

Annie Dillard calls this 'critical distance':

'Writers very often need to be away from a place to write about it well. Ibsen wrote his Norway plays when he was living in Italy. Willa Cather wrote her prairie novels when she was living in New York City. James Joyce wrote his Dublin novel and Dublin short stories when he was living in Paris. Mark Twain wrote about Missouri when he was living in Hartford. Walt Whitman wrote about life outside and they found out recently he barely left his room. That’s called critical distance or something. You have to have it.'

- Annie Dillard, from 'The Thoreau of the Suburbs'