Where do you write?

I used to imagine that writing involved cafés, dappled meadows, and heavy mahogany desks set under the window in book-walled studies. The writer locks herself away from the world, surrounding herself in oddities and curios that help ease her mind into new worlds and new paths of thought.

Perfect, I thought. Once my first mega-ultimate-bestseller is sold, I’ll find a place just like I imagined: a big stone house full of stuff, with a nice backyard and a café down the street. I’ll never be at a loss for places to work.

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My imagination tells me a lot of things.

Not surprisingly, several years went by and these plans never quite made it to fruition. One of the most striking examples of this is that the only time I can devote to the craft is tucked into the nooks and crannies that exist around other activities. And I know I’m not alone in this. I’m sure I’ve just described one of the most common conflicts that writers face (other than conflicts in their plots).

Marisa and I got together to discuss how, where, and when we find the time to write.

At home

Marisa: In bed with my cat. I kid you not. Near the end of the holidays, I woke up one morning, plunked my laptop on the bed and started typing. I didn’t want to leave the coziness of the blankets, plus my darling cat was lying down with her paw stretched out towards me. If that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what is.

Leona: Me too, though not so much because of coziness and cats. My internet connection is strongest in a corner of the bedroom, so I build a little nest and settle in, listening to oodles of atmospheric music. There are also no windows, which means that fifty percent of the time I sit in a dim, lonely place, cut off from the real world and free to play in the world inside my head. The only problem with working at home is the wealth of distractions. Cat, spouse, housework, television, games…If I’m working on a tough scene, there are plenty of ways to avoid it!

At the day job

Marisa: Don’t underestimate the power of your lunch break. Writing in the middle of the day can really invigorate you and get you excited between long work hours. More than that, I use the opportunity because evenings and weekends can get busy and I don’t want to go too long without working on my book.

Leona: Compared to Marisa, I’m a terrible employee. When I work retail I restrict my writing to break times, jotting things down on my phone. But when I was corporate I would basically take any opportunity where I didn’t have any pressing tasks and no one was looking over my shoulder…

In transit

Marisa: No one knows better than writers how the imagination can help you travel somewhere far and exciting. I once edited my novel on my phone while crammed onto a shuttle bus between subway stations (there was a power outage). I had one hand on the pole for balance and the other scrolling through the text I’d written just before leaving the house. I find that if I write something and re-read it at least an hour later, it’s almost like I’m reading it for the first time, and it gives me a truly fantastic opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t – even on the bus.

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Leona: I love writing on trains! Crushed in with other people, afraid of making eye contact, and listening to music. The mental walls come up and form a “quiet” internal space more effectively than any physical walls. Sometimes I get my best raw work done typing away on a Blackberry and praying that no one sits close enough to read what I’m writing.

In a group

Marisa: I’m still waiting for Team Tweak to get together for a writing session (kidding, guys!). I can just imagine how writerly it would feel to type away in a café with food at one’s side, knowing that your fellow writers are tapping away just as productively on their keyboards.

Leona: This is a good way to stay on task. It’s not as easy to waste time when you’re surrounded by people who know what you should be doing. Also, if you get stuck on a word or idea, they are a convenient sounding board. We’ll get together soon, I hope!

Out and about

Marisa: When I was little, I got a lot of inspiration from the creek near my house. I even wrote half a novel that took place in that lush, natural neighbourhood. I absolutely love nature and the idea of scribbling away in a notebook under the sun. I actually got a lot of my writing done while on vacation during my childhood! The only downside is having to type everything up on the computer later…Different environments always offer fresh perspectives.

Leona: Sometimes you just have to get out of the house and away from the pressures and distractions. My favourite café is a ten-minute walk, they play jazz music, they have $1 refills on coffee, and they know who I am and what I’m going to order before I even make it to the counter.

How about you? Where do you write?

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6 thoughts on “Where do you write?

  1. Pingback: Where do you write? | Leona Carver

  2. These days it’s less where do i write and more “What machine do i write on?” The computer seems to have been relegated to the job of editing (Not that that’s a small task…) I write almost entirely on the Dana, which is effectively a Palm Pilot with a full sized keyboard (and an extra long battery compared to most laptops). Best of all, while it technically has wifi, I have never bothered to set it up, and with the screen (Black and white, and only about 9 lines of text tall) the idea of trying to read anything internetty on it doesn’t appeal. It’s very portable, so i write downstairs on the comfy sofa, at the kitchen table, at the nearest cafe, on the bus, in the car, at other peoples’ houses … usually with earphones on unless I’m in specific company. It’s essentially the device that frees me from the internet laden termpations of my actual computer.

    It does have flaws. I actually miss the Microsoft Autocorrect that turns teh into the for you, for instance, and I can’t do accents. But those are minor and fixeable on the revisions. More problematic, it’s getting less compatible with newer technology, and harder to sync files with the home computer. For that reason, I’ll sooner or later need a new portable system. I don’t know if I’ll find one I like as much, for the quick “Must get away and type”

    Speaking of which, time to retire to the comfy couch and earphones downstairs to get more fictiony words in.

  3. I don’t know the new cost (The company is Alphasmart, and the newest and probably still supported device is called a Neo). It was originally designed for people with handicaps, whose fine motor control wouldn’t let them use a pen or pencil at the speed necessary for taking notes in class, but I was introduced to it by a classmate at Viable Paradise, and it seemed much better than the laptops available then. We got ours used.

    With the increase in smaller and lighter netbooks, and tablets with keyboards, and improvements in battery life in both, it may fulfill less of a niche than it used to. Also, if sitting upright, you can get a bit of a crick in the neck.

    On the actual original topic – I have found writing in group to be useful, if the group is truly dedicated to the “Talk for 15 mintues, write for an hour, take a break to chat, write again”, and not to chatting between.

  4. I was interested in finding a writing tablet last year but the prices were too over the top for me. I wanted a device that lets you write in a Word file and transfer it to a computer – not a tablet worth hundreds of dollars.

    Writing with a group sounds fun and different! Your suggestion on a brief talking period before people get back to work sounds efficient too.

    • We will try it out soon, Marisa 😀 We need to get together in the new year!

      Obviously, we need to invent teleportation, stat. I miss hanging out with you and your click-clicking Dana, Lenora. Reminds me of the cabin 😉

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