E.B. White said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” Where’s the most productive place to write? Wherever you decide it is.
Used to, I could write anywhere. Diners, as a passenger in the car, the bathtub Trumbo-style, cabs, buses, planes, bars, and the various control rooms and edit bays when I worked in radio and TV. I’d write on a yellow legal pad and then bring it back to the keyboard later. I could tune out noise and distraction like a mind ninja.
Now? Not so much. The most productive place to write for me is my office. It’s not fancy, but it’s mine. I say that but as I’m writing this piece, I’m sitting in bed, laptop perched on my knees, while my husband plays Skyrim next to me. Why don’t I go to my office and write? Sometimes, it gets lonely in there, and I like the din of dragon slaying and orc attacks and the dramatic music of Tamriel.
I feel like a jerk about it because, for the longest time, I didn’t have a real office. I’d create a space in the corner of wherever I lived. But I always created that space, no matter how crummy or tiny the apartment was and I made sure I wrote at least four to five days a week, usually before my day or night job. I couldn’t afford to go to college to get a writing degree but I could work at the discipline of writing.
I had other rules, too. The space was only used for writing. I wouldn’t use whatever passed for the dining room table or a coffee table because I’d use that as an excuse not to write there because I’m a neat freak. I didn’t want to have to clear away my writing stuff. Nope, writing needed its own area.
I’m grateful for my office, especially when my in-laws are visiting. They love to put their cell phone on speaker and bellow into it like FBI Director Gordon Cole because they believe that not holding the device to their ear protects them from the deadly radiation caused by cell phones. It’s pretty hilarious but it’s hard to write dialogue with all of the screaming.
The Public Writing Space
When people tell me they write in public spaces, I don’t see how they do it. Don’t they get distracted? My writer friend Henry thinks I should give it a try. He pretty much writes mainly in Coffee Beans. “I like the bustle around me. I like the company of strangers,” he explains. “J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in a coffee shop.” He likes to throw that one in there. He adds, “I think you’d find that you’d be less lonely.” Maybe he’s right.
Writing in public is Henry’s jam. He says he used to write on the train when he lived in New York. He could turn down the buzz around him. He said he enjoyed the rhythm of the train. It helped his writing. “I liked that I was moving through the city toward my destination while I was also being productive as well as being inspired.”
If you’ve got the space and the budget, a converted shed or tiny house can be a writer’s oasis. The backyard hut is nothing new. It’s served writers well for decades. My friend Glenn took his parent’s old RV and fixed it up. He parked it in his driveway and uses that as his writing space. Sometimes, he takes it out to the desert to change the scenery. A garage, a large closet, a nook, a spare bedroom… it’s matter of designating all or part of that space as primarily a writing space.
The Shared Space
Several of my freelance friends swear by the rented shared space. They like the atmosphere. The option of having co-workers and like-minded people to connect with. These spaces can become natural places to network as well. If you don’t want to pay the rent, the public library is still a great space.
The Great Outdoors
Many writers love to be out in nature or just not in their home to be inspired. A guy from my writer’s group a few years back swore by working outside when the weather was good. He’d take a notebook and work in parks, sitting on a bench, or in the grass. He’d hike and write sitting on a rock or some such. He loved writing at the beach. He said he was inspired by being outside and upon returning home, he felt rejuvenated.
This is a go-to place when I’m editing or short pieces. I can’t work for a long stretch but it’s a nice change of pace sometimes and the dog likes getting to sleep in while I get something done. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez writes first thing in the morning while he’s still in bed because he doesn’t enjoy writing. He tricks himself into getting his pages out before his brain realizes what he’s doing.
My friend Chantal laughs when I tell her about my need for peace and quiet. She’s got three young children. “If I waited for the house to be quiet enough to write, I’d have between the hours of 3 to 5 a.m. so I just make sure no one’s dead and write in the living room on my couch.”
Chantal can write in a sound effects bed. She’ll get solid writing done with the TV blaring and kids and pets running around. I think twice now before I complain about my bellowing in-laws. Also, Chantal works in a writer’s room and is prepared to work under many circumstances. That’s a skill.
Where do you write? Do you have a specific space or are you a free spirit you can conjure words anywhere? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments.