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The real question is where to write

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series 31 Days Blog Challenge

Writers have a long history of writing anywhere but at their desk. Where do you go for inspiration? I’ve been known to write at the usual local writer’s haunts: Starbucks, Panera’s, Barnes & Nobles, Borders, and the time-honored public library. I’ve written standing up at a counter, leaning back in the bed, relaxed in a recliner, and frantically dashing off a note while still in the tub. The last requires some skill to keep the paper dry.

The first draft of my first book was born while I was sitting on a stool at the cafe counter in a local bowling alley. For twenty-one days I showed up every evening at 6PM. My friend who worked there played midwife and kept the coffee hot and my cup full as I pushed ink onto notebook pages for four hours every night. Definitely helped hone my ability to concentrate no matter what’s going on around me.

Lately I’ve heard the call of cemeteries, one in particular. I can’t help it. Five minutes standing among those historical headstones triggers scenes that anxiously press to be recorded. Other writers drew inspiration from other writing environments.

Conrad Aiken worked at a refectory table in the dining room; Robert Graves wrote in a room furnished only with objects made by hand. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up; D. H. Lawrence under a tree. William Maxwell preferred “small messy rooms that don’t look out on anything interesting.” Katherine Anne Porter said she got her writing done in the country, where she lived like a hermit. Ben Franklin wrote in the bathtub, Jane Austen amid family life, Marcel Proust in the confines of his bed. Balzac ate an enormous meal at five in the evening, slept till midnight, then got up and wrote at a small desk in his room for sixteen hours straight, fueled by endless cups of coffee. Toni Morrison found refuge in a motel room when her children were small; E. B. White sought it in a cabin on the shore. Due to her problem back, Penelope Lively works in an armchair, with an “ancient electronic typewriter” on her lap, while A. L. Kennedy finds comfort in a “monster black chair” in a room “the color of blood.”–Alexandra Enders, The Importance of Place: Where Writers Write and Why, Poets & Writers

And you, are you confined to a computer and a desk or does the need for inspiration lead you to move about? Leave a comment below and tell us about your experiences.

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The Importance of Place: Where Writers Write and Why


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  • claudine

    This is so difficult for me, Vikk! I love writing away from home because of the distractions, but I hate dragging all my stuff with me to do it elsewhere.
    My favorite place is one particular McDonalds. They have highbacked booths. Good for quiet and comfort. They know me there and don’t mind if I spend hours. They have wi-fi and though I don’t use it, I know they don’t mind computers there because of it.
    Plus, I can see the booth from where I refill my sodas. :)
    The down side is the person that I feel the need to bring at least 6 books writing, the computer AND the ergonomic keyboard, the printed out novel and all the various versions and notes.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com Vikk

    I so understand about stuff, Claudine. Most writers probably do. But there are times when I just want a notebook and a new space to do freewriting, mindmapping, or some other spontaneous writing and then the load lightens a lot.

    Maybe it would help lighten your load if you decided ahead of time what you would do and then just take the items needed for that? You might not need all 6 books, maybe just 1? May not need all the other versions, either.

    That said, I use a roller bag I got from Michaels that is supposed to be for scrapbooking and it contains everything for my novel. They put them on 50 % off sales periodically so you can get them for a lot less than their original price–which escapes me right now. I have 2 and several of my friends have them, too. I just roll ‘er up and that’s it. I even use it around the house as it’s nice to keep everything together no matter where I am. I can roll it into the bedroom, my writing office, or right next to my reclining chair.

    McDonalds are great places to write. I know writers who settle in for long hauls there.

    Thanks for sharing your favorite place.