Friday, October 19, 2012

Where I Write

It's no secret that writers are strange people. And even stranger still are some of the odd habits they keep while engaging in their craft. I for one cannot write with a pencil. I absolutely abhor pencils, have ever since I was in the first grade. I have a peculiar aversion to the feel of graphite rubbing on paper, you see. It sets my teeth on edge! But when it comes to writing, I seem to have lost the ability to write with pen and paper as well. Everything I've written since the age of about 16 has been on some sort of electronic medium--a word processor in high school, or some variation of the personal computer ever since. Writing stuff longhand is simply far too slow for my needs. I need a keyboard of some sort.

Jane Austen's desk. (Photo credit:
Eamonn McCabe.
Then we come to where a writer writes. I'm amazed sometimes by all the spoils and riches some aspiring writers need to get themselves going. Some need to be out in nature with a yellow pad in order to get some inspiration, while others can go for long sessions at the local coffee shop. Some writers have big, elaborate home offices with pretty tapestries hanging on the wall and large bay windows overlooking some picturesque landscape, where everything is situated just right to conduct proper writerly affairs. And still others need only a small corner of the bedroom to ply their trade. Worst, however, is the writer that seems to crave more the knowledge that other people can see him writing big important writerly things in public rather than the actual task of creating something worthwhile. This is the pretentious writer type, whom I loathe with a passion.

Then there's where I fit in. And here I take a page from Stephen King, who must write with absolutely no distractions. His preferred writing spot when he was an up and comer was either the attic space when he was younger, or in the basement seated next to the heater when he was older. This is so me. I'm not very particular in the decor of where I write, but it must share some basic characteristics. For one, I need to face the wall. Preferably a bare wall with little to no hanging art. Second, no windows. I get easily distracted and the last thing I need is to be able to see the whole wide world outside when trying to focus on my own created worlds. And lastly, my space needs a door. Because, see, whenever I sit down to write creatively, I mentally shut the world out around me. And a door is that one physical link to the actual world that can correlate with the symbolic action of shutting all the nonsense out. Keeping it behind the barrier, as it were.

My desk, no fuss no muss. Okay, a whole lot of muss!

My space is cozy, bland, and best of all--easily cut off from the rest of the house around me. Once that door closes, everyone knows to leave me the hell alone until I emerge, hours later, bleary-eyed and drained of color. This is how I roll. Over the years I've been unable to write well any other way. On a laptop on the Amtrak to Philly? Nope! Won't work, too many bumps and station stops. In a cubicle at the local library? Nope, still too many noises and people walking by. I've never tried a coffee shop before, simply because I don't drink coffee and can't tell you the last time I've ever walked into one. But I'm pretty sure that wouldn't work for me, either. I mean, I can write low-energy stuff in such situations: work related docs, e-mail . . . this blog. But to write creatively I crave silence and solitude.

To me it all makes sense. I don't know about you. So tell me, what is your process? Better yet, where do you write?


  1. I'm one of the coffee shoppers :) Since I started writing regularly as a stay-at-home mom, I'm used to noise and bustle while I write. At this point I NEED it. But it can't be overwhelming noise or bustle. It has to be the kind that I can tune out and just have as background noise. No one actually trying to hold a conversation with me.

    At home I write in bed or on the couch with the tv or music on, but in order to not be too distracting, it must be something I'm not particularly interested in.

  2. Never tried a coffee shop, but I reckon it would work. One place I can't write is facing a blank wall. I prefer somewhere with a view, I find I need a bit of visual distraction to give me a rest between sentences :)

  3. Funny ...noise doesn't distract me at all...probably growing up in a house with nine kids--I tune it all out.

    I usually write late at night, like now, laying on my bed with my laptop. But my head has to be where my feet are when I sleep - otherwise, I'm out like a light in a thunder storm. . . can't get too comfortable or I'm a goner. Instead, I'm typing while I'm doing a pilates move. . . like now :D so I'm getting a workout at the same time - two birds-one stone and all that

  4. Ha! Writers ARE weird. We should form a club! Unlike you, I started my "writing career" using a No. 2 pencil and my diary. I was 14 years old when I wrote my first short story. I don't know why I started writing it in my diary but when I filled all the pages up, I finally bought a yellow legal pad. Of course, this was circa 1980 or thereabouts, no computer for me. Back then I think they were referred to as word processors and as a fourteen year old, my parents saw no need for me to have one. Not that I'd know what to do with one, if I did have one, at that age. ;) But now, I don't know what I would do without my laptop! Anyway, I too, crave solitude and absolute quiet when I write. Some of my writer friends have music playing in the background when they are writing. They say they tune it out. I simply can't do that. And also like you, I can't have windows near me, when I'm writing, because I am very easily distracted and my mind wanders at the drop of a hat. So I am very strict with myself when it comes to this.

    I tend to believe that writers, as a general rule, are a bit eccentric, moreso than weird. Or maybe they just go hand in hand. What do you think?

  5. JS -- Yeah, even that would be too distracting for me. I can tune out background noise when I'm writing non-creatively. But if it's a story or novel, I need absolute silence. Sometimes I can put on classical music and it will inspire my creativity, but most times dead silence suits best.

    Ian -- I escape into my head for visual distraction during breaks. Actually my breaks usually involve me centering myself for the next passage or scene, making sure I have all my thematic ducks in a row. A window would have me wandering too far afield from the story at hand, thinking about all sorts of irrelevancies. :)

    Kim -- That's interesting. Do you do this when creative writing, though? I do what you describe when I'm working from home. Boring work stuff on the laptop is when I have the tv on in the background and moving about the house like I have a bad case of the get-up and goes. :)

    Yvonne -- Yes, eccentric is of course the more apt word. But I call anything not normal "weird." :) I wrote my first "real" short story when I was 14 as well. At that time, I used the old family typewriter to write up my tales. Then I asked for a Brother word processor for Christmas when I was 16, and it was all onward and upward from there!

  6. I spent 3 hours writing in a bar tonight. It was perfect :)

  7. Same issues, need silence and solitude and spartan environment.

    I don't know how people write while being transported. How did people write in carriages to make the time pass?

    Like this post and topic.

  8. Depends on what I'm writing. I'm most creative late at night either dead silence or music on. Actually I'm pretty good a tuning the world out no matter where I am. Haven't yet found my ideal writing area though. Bed or desk, if it's late then I get in the zone.


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