Where do you write?
Writers don’t spend a lot of time debating this. As a teacher and writing coach, however, I’ve found that venue can be critical to a writer’s success.
Writing is portable, so you can choose where you are most able to concentrate, where you are most comfortable, and where you gain the most inspiration. Sometimes we plop ourselves down in an office, on the bed, or at the kitchen table based on the first or second of these reasons, never giving ample thought to the third.
Imagine if you chose where to write based on how it might supercharge your writing?
My Writing Venue
I’m as guilty as anyone of choosing comfy or quiet over inspiration. I write during the wee hours, free-falling into “the zone,” an almost-trance in which time disappears and my fingers fly over the keyboard. I’m positive three hundred ten world-class studies have proven it impossible to achieve this state during daylight.
Like starving ninja sales reps, dueling distractions compete for my attention. The garbage truck beep-beep-beep!s as it backs up over my new trash can, multiple lawn services r-r-r-rev-v-v! up their man-toy mowers and blowers, hammers bang-bang-bang! at the construction site nearby (I’ve lived here 30+ years, and somebody’s always building or repairing), my dogs rarf-rarf-rarf! at the dog next door and need to go out at least once an hour, my phone ring-ring-ring!s half a dozen times (only once from someone worth talking to), the dryer beeeeeeep!s to summon me to rescue my permanent-press blouses, and my 2:00 appointment knock-knock-knock!s just as I’m finally on a roll.
So I write in the dark. Make that when it’s dark. I’m not about to go gallivanting around at 3 A. M., so my venues are limited.
Office / Starbucks
I actually have an “office” with a comfy executive chair in what’s supposed to be our formal living room. My husband and I each pile things on our desks. I got out of the habit of writing there when my laptop no longer fit among the clutter.
Where are you comfortable writing? Do you have an ergonomic chair? Or do you sink down into the sofa with your laptop? Do you prefer a stiff chair so you can maintain good posture? Maybe comfort is more than physical. Do you need to be in a certain room? Do you even need to write at home? Try writing at Starbucks or Panera, a la J. K. Rowling. You’ll have the comfort of being surrounded by neighbors, access to great coffee and pastries, and a subtle push to power through so as not to appear as a slacker in public!
Kitchen Table / Park or Museum
Lately, I’ve taken to writing at the kitchen table. That chair swivels and rocks, too. It’s close to the iced tea, M&Ms, and Girl Scout Thin Mints that keep me fueled. A beautiful view out the French doors to our partially wooded back yard is a great motivator; when the leaves fill in, from the end of April through the end of November, it becomes a private green oasis.
Where can you find a view to motivate your writing muse? A park, perhaps by a stream or millrace? Running water urges you to let things—ideas, I mean!—out. Think of how pumped you’d get at a museum—the story ideas an art museum’s paintings would evoke, the logical thinking a science museum’s robots would stimulate, the connections you’d make at a museum of African-American history. Try writing in a soaring atrium or in front of a giant mural or mosaic. What inspiration might you get from a provocative sculpture or gently swaying mobile? Opening your mind to beauty also opens it to new ideas.
Couch / Boardwalk or Bar
My husband gets lonely when I abandon him to write, so sometimes during the early evening, I work next to him on the comfy couch in the family room. The view out the sliding doors is blocked by our giant TV, which provides its own sort of motivation, but doesn’t usually result in words on pages. Whatever I write takes three times as long as it normally might and is about a third as good as it should be. Sometimes, though, what’s on TV takes my brain on an entirely new tangent.
You may find it refreshing to write where characters literally stroll past your laptop, ripe for the plucking for your next novel. On the boardwalk, you may see a woman with striped bright purple and yellow hair dragging two screaming toddlers with dripping pink sno-cones; her companion struts in a thong to show off the tattoos that cover everything except his face. Or maybe you’ll get plot ideas while writing at a bar, watching the customers bob and flirt.
Bedroom / Anywhere There’s Music
Then there’s the bedroom. I have good success writing in bed, propping myself on my pillows and balancing my laptop on my thighs. Pulling up the covers keeps me feeling cozy and protected, which is its own brand of inspiration. From my bed, I can’t see much of anything interesting out the windows, but I may be treated to an inspirational concert of background snores.
Many people write better with background music. Whether it’s pop, country, or classical depends on your personality and the kind of writing you’re doing. An irreverent piece may be perked up by a driving rock beat, while an article with logistics issues might need the organization of Mozart’s metered rhythms. Jazz seems to heighten creativity, while the blues are—well, the blues. If you’re struggling with difficult wording, it may be easier to listen to music without lyrics. The great thing about music is you can take it anywhere. Grab your mp3 player or iPhone and earbuds and you’re off to the races. Throw open the doors to your concert hall or acoustic studio in your car or on a bus, train, or boat; at the gym or library; or in a treehouse or basement.
Porch / Sensory Environment
When the weather is warm, my favorite place to write (day or night) is on our screened back porch. There’s nearly always a breeze, and the leaves flutter in soft susurrations (recognize one of those beautiful words?). If that doesn’t keep things cool, a ceiling fan does the trick.
Squirrels romp and leap from oak to oak; rabbits stay just ahead of the dogs, ducking under the fence; robins, cardinals, crows, doves, bluejays, and starlings swoop, tweet, and caw. Sparrows even squeeze under the screen door to make a nest every year in the eaves inside the porch. We watch as they dart in and out, bringing straw and twigs and later, worms and bugs for their babies. Butterflies flit among the lilacs. Deer even stroll through sometimes, and we’ve seen foxes and raccoons.
Once I slip into the writing zone, I don’t notice where I am, but a rich sensory environment helps me relax and inspires me so I can find that zone. If you are charged by the energy exuded by cities and modern architectural elements, Starbucks, a museum of modern art, or your custom-designed office might be your perfect writing venue. If you need calm tradition, look to nature’s warmth for perfect spots. Your writing will flourish in a room with a view, sitting on the grass in the park, or at your local museum’s sculpture garden.
Don’t get stuck in your old, comfy writing spot. Find the place that will really power up your creativity.