Location, Location, Location

In a couple of recent interviews, people have asked me if I have a favorite place to write. It’s a good question. For me, it’s not so much a favorite place to write, because my personal schedule is so chaotic I have to write where the opportunity presents itself, even if I’m not very inspired by the venue.

There are some spots where writing is more pleasant for me, so when I have a choice, I may gravitate to one of them. There are also places I simply can’t write, no matter how urgent the need.

Places I Enjoy Writing

Coffeeshops – There’s something about the smell of coffee that gets my creative juices flowing. There’s usually some background noise, but it’s pleasant–soft music, quiet conversations, and the occasional growl of the bean grinder or whoosh of steamed milk. If I can find a back-corner table with an electrical outlet, I’m in heaven. A wi-fi hotspot is just whipped cream on the cappuccino.

Bookstores – Coffeeshops are frequently co-located with bookstores these days, so this can be a two-fer. They’re quiet, and they smell of both books and coffee, which is a nice combination. Downsides to a bookstore include the constant foot traffic (in a coffeeshop, staying clear of the cash register is adequate), and while there may be places to sit, there often aren’t many tables, and I hate to use my laptop on my lap. Go figure. Oh, and there’s the constant temptation to stop writing and start browsing.

Home – Ah, there’s no place like home. Sometimes. A lot depends on my family’s schedule. If I’m alone in the house, I can get an enormous amount of writing done. My productivity drops exponentially with each family member added to the mix. I’m including dogs here. This isn’t a slam on my beloved wife, kids, and pups (and my most valuable critiques come from my family)–it’s just harder to concentrate with more people in the house, and there’s always something else that needs doing. The refrigerator also beckons.

Airports – This seems a little counter-intuitive, given what I’ve been saying about noise level, seclusion, and nice smells. Maybe it’s an adaptation–I spend a fair bit of time in airports now, traveling for work, so it’s easier to tune out the background distractions. I’ve also found that if you really want to be alone in an airport, it’s not too hard. Walking one direction or the other along a concourse, there’s usually a vacant gate that probably won’t start accumulating travelers for a couple of hours. I can park myself next to a sunny window and work undisturbed, and when I need a break, I can watch the airplanes come and go. Biggest problems here are scarcity of electrical outlets (though that’s improving), and wi-fi internet access is often locked behind a wretched Boingo tollgate.

Places I Can’t Write

Outdoors – Walt Whitman I’m not. The variation in temperature, airflow, illumination, and humidity, plus the random incursion of insectoid invaders, provides far too many distractions. It works better for me to spend a few hours walking through the woods, gathering inspiration and creative energy, then return to one of my writing places and pour it all out onto the page.

Libraries – It’s quiet. Too quiet. Writing in a library feels like writing in an echo chamber. They’re always too cold or too hot, and the smell of books unmingled with java takes me right back to elementary school. However, if it’s a very large library, with two or three floors, the feeling of isolation within a musty archive of arcane lore can provide a nice, creepy vibe.

Airplanes – I’m 6’4″ tall. Typing on a tray table that’s pushed into my midsection by Mister It’s My God-Given Right To Recline My Seat To The Full Back and Locked Position, elbows pinned against my sides by the Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackles seated to my right and left, leaves me feeling somewhat…compressed.

So, those are my writing havens and horrors. How about you?

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2 thoughts on “Location, Location, Location

  1. Fred, you and I are of the same mind regarding places to write. Most of my writing is done at home, but a sparsely populated public place such as a coffee shop, even a McDonalds (wifi) can be a soothing atmosphere for writing. I have arthritis in my neck which brings discomfort if I must look down at too sharp of an angle for extended periods, so some places that would otherwise be nice, for me, aren’t so good.

    Coffee and books, what a God-given blessing to sit, write, sip, and smell those glorious aromas.

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