A Novel Observed #22 – Where To Write?

The Writing Stage

The Writing Stage

For those who know me, it’ll come as no surprise that I’m writing this in bed. But then it is 11pm, so that’s okay. I think.

To be fair most of my writing takes place right here in this not-as-comfortable-as-you-might-think location, usually in the small hours of the night, when everyone else is asleep (see my previous post on ‘When to write‘), but – and this may come as a surprise – it is not the only place I write.

“So where else do you write?” I hear you ask. Here are just a few:

  • On the train (not first class)
  • In a van, crammed between two other people
  • In cafes
  • In pubs
  • In the library in Alton
  • At people’s houses, when I’m bored
  • At parties, when I’m bored
  • In my writing room, which is sadly no longer my writing room
  • Sitting on a bench by the river
  • On an aeroplane (or should that be in an aeroplane?)
  • On a beach, hiding in the shade
  • In the car

Unsurprisingly, not all of these locations proved conducive to writing; most notably the van, thanks to the fact I suffer from motion sickness and the radio was on full blast. And I get called antisocial when crouched over my laptop at people houses and parties. But some of these have been places I regularly return to so I can get on with a bit of writing when I have tired of my bed. My favourites would be cafes and pubs, as long as they have free wifi, the library and, strangely considering my predilection for getting travel sick, the train.

So what is it about these places that makes them so appealing for me as a writer?

I think comfort is probably the first thing; not necessarily in the sense of being on a nice squashy sofa, but more that I feel relaxed in these places, at ease. The internet is also important. Although it can be a distraction if I let it (which I often do), it is also a great source of information, inspiration and other stuff possibly starting with ‘in’, like incredibly useful spelling help, and I find that the absence of the internet can restrict my writing. Finally, even though they are not necessarily quiet or peaceful, these places are free from distraction, because none of the noisy and busyness has anything to do with me and can therefore be ignored and I can disappear into my own little world.

Why is this important?

After all, we writers should be able to write anywhere, no? Think about those poor travel writers, who have to scribble their first drafts while being jolted about in the back of a jeep on an unmade mountain road. Or journalists sent to war zones, who are forced to tap away at their keyboards while shells explode around them. Surely, if we’re really writers, location is unimportant – we could get our work done lying on the floor of a busy cattle market or while suspended by one leg over a live volcano.

But that would hardly be ideal. Except maybe for serious, hardcore research!

Sometimes we have to make do with trying to write in a van, stuck in the middle of two sweaty guys, with Radio 2 filling the cab, or with our backs pressed against the seawall, trying to peer at our laptop screens in the glare of the sun. But that is NOT the ideal – at least, it’s not the ideal for most of us.

Finding the best location to write, the place you feel relaxed, equipped and free to let yourself drift off and explore whatever world you happen to be writing about, or where you can concentrate on your research and planning, will make a huge difference to your writing.

So, where’s best for you?