Where Do You Write?

By Posted in - On Writing on May 28th, 2010 10 Comments

I have a huge office at the front of my apartment with two desks and everything a writer could want in the way of printers and colourful necessities from stationery shops. So why do I always seem to end up writing the most, for the longest time, and with the greatest sense of sanctuary and clarity of mind in my bed?

Perhaps my office is too much part of the real world. It’s open plan, making me too readily available to everyone, and everyone too available to me. It’s also too near the kitchen, so I keep getting up to make a snack or a cup of tea. And it’s at the front of the building overlooking the street, exposing me to a constant rumble of coast-cruising Harleys, especially on the weekend.

All of which is fine if I’m doing internet stuff, paying bills or checking e-mail, but when I’m serious about immersing myself in the world of words I retreat to my cave, the four poster bed at the back of the flat that has hardly any light. As soon as I prop myself up in bed, Sasha floomps down from the top of my bed to the sofa at its foot and makes her way over to me. She rubs her cheeks against the corner of my laptop or kneads me with her paws for a few minutes and then settles into a tight curl at my side.

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Then I wriggle deeper into the pillows, take a deep breath and ask my protagonist, “Where was I?”

“You left me clinging to a roof forty feet above the streets of London,” says he, “my girlfriend just told me I’m an unmitigated shit and my best friend blew my cover with the gang that was going to help me break into the—what was I about to break into?”

“Ah, yes,” I respond with a soft snicker, and I’m off, curious to see how far I can push him before he snaps, and what will happen when he does.

Failed Experiments:

I’ve tried writing in libraries but they’re too hushed and if I need to go to the loo I have the worry of what to do with my stuff. Balancing a laptop on a toilet roll holder because you don’t trust the puddles on the floor can have pretty disastrous consequences.

I’ve tried writing in coffee shops, and while it’s true that the lack of an internet connection is a blessing, the trouble is I can’t hear Tempus speak over the snarl of the coffee grinder and the couple having an argument nearby. I’m too much an observer of life and I’m unable to tune out distractions. So I use coffee shops to attend my critique group sessions, to watch people and to make notes.

But I go home to my cave to write.

No music. Just a bottle of water and a pile of reference books nearby to check details as I go; a fencing manual, maps of London from the 16th century to the present day, a book of costume details and a cookery book. But I rarely actually use them until later. I just like the security of knowing they’re there. And perhaps security is what it’s all about.

So what about you? Where do you write?

(10) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Cheryl - Reply

    May 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Lia,
    Nice post. I like hearing and seeing where others write. Mostly, I write in my living room on my lap top. I try every now and then to write at a coffee shop but it just doesn't feel right, I feel kinda like a poser. I actually have gotten a lot done sitting by a water fountain, maybe it's the sound of water trickling and splashing that soothes me and helps to get in my zone. Now that I think of it, I'll need to go to more water fountains. Thanks Lia!
    .-= Cheryl ´s last blog ..My Next Project =-.

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    May 29, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Cheryl, what a great idea! Water fountains! Of course. I often find solutions to story problems in the shower, though I’ve never known why it works so well, but if you say fountains have the same effect on you I’ll give it a go!

    I really connected with your comment about feeling like a poser, writing in a coffee shop. I know exactly what you mean. Writing in a public place feels like a performance art. I become conscious of the outside world as an end consumer of my words and find myself wondering what the people in the coffee shop would think of what I’m writing. It’s too self-conscious a place to be when I’m writing.

    I don’t mind doing that when I’m planning a novel, chapter or scene, because an awareness of your end audience is useful to remind yourself of your promise to entertain and thrill a reader. But I need to filter all that out so I can inhabit the world of the novel completely. The end result is always more convincing when I do.

  • Melissa - Reply

    May 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Oh, this is great! Your blog connects with my blog on Scribblerati! I have to use pencil and paper at first to get it down. And to get into the mind set I have to plug into Phantom of the Opera (original cast on broadway). Then take my reasearch folder and notebook and the writing notebook either outside to the lounger or if it's raining or cold I have a chaise lounge in the living room and the images start coming and I write for several pages or hours until animals or husbands start disturbing me. 🙂

  • Rahma - Reply

    May 30, 2010 at 1:20 am

    I move around a lot, kinda' like my cats who try out different perches. Right now though, my nook-of-choice is my bed as well, for a lot of the same reasons you point out.

    As for coffee places, sometimes I will take my spiral notebook and sit for a few moments, jotting down things I haven't had time to enter on my laptop.

    Then there's the sunroom and two different spots in the living room, but NEVER my office, which is where my left brain must be engaged.

    I like to hear how other writers work too.
    .-= Rahma´s last blog ..Libraries going ‘bookless’ =-.

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    May 30, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Melissa, I applaud you for working with pen and paper! I used to write that way and hardly ever suffered from the urge to self-edit that often overwhelms me now. I have a conflicted relationship with my backspace key.

    I’ve heard many writers say that writing by hand forces them to slow down and consider what they’re writing. It gives them time to visualize the story world at the same time as they’re choosing words that express it for the reader.

    I’m impatient about having to then type it all up. But perhaps that’s not a separate stage to editing but the same thing. When you transfer your handwritten first draft to the computer, do you edit as you go? Or just type it all up and then edit?

  • Birgitte Necessary - Reply

    May 30, 2010 at 11:38 am

    In my kitchen in the midst of everything. Which is why I guess I don’t write that often. If I sneak off somewhere it’s worse, as “everything” comes looking for me. I can hear it creeping my way in the desperate voices of my kids, “Where’s mom?” or my husband, “Birgitte?? Can you help me for a sec?” or my cat who can find me anywhere I hide or the cell that I left on the counter that keeps ringing and is most likely one of my other kids needing a ride home from somewhere, or the oven beeping that dinner is done or the…well, you get the picture. So I stay in my kitchen, in the midst of chaos, so at least the chaos stays contained to one room and one mind. More or less.

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    May 30, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Rahma, maybe that’s why cats and writers get along so well!

    I sometimes take a notebook or laptop on to my balcony when the weather is right. It has to be JUST right, though. Too hot, and I burn and get cross. Too cold and I shiver and get distracted. Too windy and papers start flying off the table. Very annoying.

    Here, in southern California, there are many balmy days in August that are too hot inside the flat. That’s when I follow the shade to the front balcony in the morning and the side balcony in the afternoon, and enjoy the sea breeze.

    Of course, Miko and Sasha (the cats) want to be with me but they get bored and tight rope walk along the balcony railings, which freaks me out, or leap from the balcony into the pine tree to chase squirrels….

  • Kim Koning - Reply

    May 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Lia…
    I agree…there is nothing like a bedroom to really get lost in your characters and your story.
    I have a home office where I do my research and my plot-building. However, although I can and will write/type anywhere, I usually end up gravitating to my bedroom to write.
    I write and type. I do my research in long hand using good old fashioned pen/pencil and paper. However I have just found Scrivener so I am in the process of converting my longhand research into Scrivener. For my poetry however, I always use pen and paper…I just find it is a more visceral process, better suited to my poetry…I do always usually carry a notebook of some sort with me (I have a strange love affair with stationery; pens and notebooks of all types and sorts) to jot down scribbles that hit me during the day.
    But indeed the bedroom is the place where I can truly lose myself in my writing.
    .-= Kim Koning´s last blog ..Every real story is a “Never ending Story”… =-.

  • Lia Keyes - Reply

    May 30, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I love Scrivener, Kim! Especially for research. It’s a great way to keep it all in order, and so visual.

    Do you use a whiteboard for plotting? I have a massive one, and have repeatedly tried to use it for plotting, but find I like Scrivener’s cork board more because if I move an index card the outline page simultaneously adjusts the sequence of events.

    So I use the whiteboard more for sticking up character and location photos and scribbling quick thoughts that I want to keep in mind as I write each scene. That way, when I look up from the screen, it’s encapsulated in a visual way.

  • Nancy Laughlin - Reply

    June 1, 2010 at 6:43 am

    I write during my lunch break from work at sandwich shops or the food court at the mall most of the time. I get my best work done there. No computer, just a notebook.
    I have a hard time concentrating at home. Maybe it’s too quiet or its too easy to get distracted.

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