The question of where often comes up for writers. Is it important to have a special place which puts you in the write head space to write?
For some writers, especially career authors, an office enables them to treat their work more like a nine-to-five job. They achieve more consistency and volume that way, without burning out.
Yet for most writers, creating meaningful words on the page is not their main source of income, and must be balanced with everything else in life. I’d wager that most of us don’t have a dedicated office with inspiring views and important leather bound books lining the walls.
Writing is more of a mindset than a task. There is no boss looking over your shoulder, or fear that you will lose your job if you don’t reach 2,000 words, so procrastination can become rife. So finding a space to make sure things get done is paramount.
In times gone by, writers literally needed a desk. They needed space for their pen and ink, their reference material and their completed pages. But now with hundreds of thousands of words filed away in one laptop computer, they can travel with you. I’ve heard stories of novels written in stages on train commutes, of famous books which owe debts of gratitude to a certain cafe, and writers who move abroad to get inspired (think Ian Fleming, Ernest Hemingway and more).
So what are the options for where to put virtual pen to virtual paper?
Writing at home
Writing at home is perhaps the easiest and most popular option. If you are a parent, you may not be able to get out of the house to write. You might not have much unused space in your home, but it’s important to find a dedicated space. It tells you and others in your family that your writing is important.
pros – free, convenient, writers can balance writing with daily tasks
cons – distractions, not feeling like your writing is ‘professional’, lack of social interaction
Writing in a cafe
Becoming a regular fixture in a cafe will give the writer a sense of belonging. They’ll be accepted by the friendly staff (supposing they are friendly), and become a sort of mascot for the place. Some writers find the ambient noise useful and cafes are usually situated in convenient places – on the way home from work or at the centre of the village.
pros – increased pressure to produce words due to the limited time frame, lively atmosphere, social interaction, better coffee
cons – not free, limited hours, can be noisy
Writing on a trip
Travel (be it international or domestic) can provide inspiration for new work, and a genuine change of environment which may help stimulate writers. You can generate new ideas from conversations you eavesdrop on, design new characters based on the bizarre guy you saw on the street, or do that pre-war research you wanted in the museum.
pros – inspiring, trips include free time, good for generating new ideas and completing research
cons – costly, most writers can’t travel for long periods, lack of home comforts can limit writing sessions, writing time could be spent enjoying your trip
Writing in a library or co-working
This may be a good option for writers looking to get out of the house, but unable to work in noisy places. However, libraries are increasingly underfunded and underused (by working-age adults). Hopefully, this will lead governments into transforming them into knowledge centres more appropriate for remote work and study. Unfortunately, many towns don’t have libraries at all, let alone good ones. If this is the case, writers can look for co-working offices. For a small fee (daily / monthly), you’ll get a desk and the use of facilities such as meeting rooms, WiFi and a cafe. You might even meet others with whom you can swap skills and network.
pros – quiet study atmosphere, good desk space, can meet other like-minded folk
cons – atmosphere can be stuffy and uninspiring, limited hours
A writing retreat or workshop
If you are really stuck in a rut, then this option might be for you. Many writers attend workshops or camps where the objective is to crack on with your work in progress. You’ll meet others who will spur you on, and might offer feedback on your work. If quiet is what you need, why not book a solo weekend away, where you can get away from the pressures of your normal life to write?
pros – support and encouragement from fellow writers, expert advice or opinion, change of scenery and dedicated time to writing
cons – the most costly option, you may find they have diminishing returns when you attend many, this time may come at the expense of other areas in your life
So, you’ve found a place to get your writing done. What next? What can you do if the words aren’t flowing?
Remember that the perfect place doesn’t exist. You can get some fresh air, take a walk, go out. You can also stay busy with writerly tasks, such as submitting, reading or blogging. You could get in touch with others who share your vision or your problems.
The most important thing is to plan your writing day. Set yourself a realistic objective and think about when and where you’ll get it done. Don’t beat yourself up you don’t get reach your goals, but ask yourself the question of why. Why wasn’t I in the right mindset to finish what I wanted? Was I in the best place to write?
I find once I’ve got into the zone, it is a question of when not if I’ll have a successful writing day. I hope you find a place which gives you the same feeling too.