Where do you write? And, why do you write there?

I am pretty sure there is a consensus that it is lame and corny to write in a coffeeshop because it is obviously a cry for help (everybody, look at me write! I am a writer over here!), but after a bunch of discussions with teachers and fellow grad students a couple of years back, I do not think it really matters where you write as long as you can get your writing done.

I was prompted to write this post because I was thinking about my preordained (I was going to change this word, but a synonym is evidently doomed so I am going to leave it) writing space, which I’ve converted to a music space because I did not like sitting alone in the dark in a chilly basement by myself. Writing is only lonely if you make it lonely.

As such, I spend most of my time writing in my reclining chair at home in front of the television. And, you know what? There is nothing wrong with that.

The myth of the writer’s den

I do not think movies have made any job easier, and writing is definitely up there with cinema’s irresponsible portrayal of what writing actually is, especially when it comes to romanticizing a writer’s process. I mean, if you think of films like Finding Forrester (2000)and Adaptation (2002) then you are no doubt thinking of archetypes (caricatures at best) of what writers look like and what writing looks like in execution. That is to say, writing is some solitary business full of existential crisis and substance abuse. I mean, you can treat it that way if you want, but just don’t expect to make any friends along the way.

Now, now, I am not saying you should get rid of that wool cardigan you just bought, OR that expensive pipe, but you should really think about your role as a writer and what you are trying to do in your writing space. Having said that, ask yourself a few questions about your own writing room:

  • Is it comfortable?
  • Have you actually completed writing there?
  • Why do you want that to be your writing room?

If you answered the first two questions with “No” and the third question with, “It makes me feel writerly,” then you might want to think about better places to write that are more conducive to writing. It is really easy to romanticize the lifestyle of a writer, but if you are not doing your job (putting pen to paper) then you simply must reevaluate your process until you are at least somewhat productive.

Still, keep in mind that I have a few quiet places around my house that I keep just for writing in case things get too hectic in the living room where my chairs lives. After all, big projects and real work take a lot of focus, but some of the smaller stuff does not need a bevy of leather-bound books and antique globes to convince me to commit to the craft.

Some ideas to help you find that place

This may sound insane, but practice sitting around your house in various spots when you feel the urge to write to try out what works and what doesn’t; and, try out different forms of writing in different places. I work best when I journal in longhand before bed and when I sit in my chair and type on my tiny laptop that has somehow kept running after so many years and so many drops. Both are places of comfort that help me think about writing and not about how bad my back hurts or about how cold my hands are getting sitting in the loneliest office in the world.

You could even go to the coffeeshop and try that out. Who knows what works for you until you give it whirl, right? Really, I guarantee you these experiments are cheaper than refurnishing an office you’ll never visit or buying a bigger desk that you won’t want to use.