Writing Process: Where Do You Write?

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One of the cheery questions that writers seem to like trading experience about is, “Where do you write?”

There are those who are passionate café writers. There are those who post long reflections on their experience writing at a weeklong or month-long retreat where trees block view of the closest human being. There are those who write on subways. There are those attending conferences this summer who will imagine long hours writing in the Adirondack chairs on a grassy mountainside.  There are those with full fledged home offices or equally meaningful cubbies with small totems that inspire them to write.

One of my most productive places to write, ever, has been sitting in bed in my house, which is that kind of new construction where the master bedroom is huge and airy, on the second floor with a bay window looking over treetops so it feels like sitting in a treehouse. Chi moves so well through that room that I am neither bored nor distracted.

More often, as single mother, I am in the corner of the sectional sofa in the family room in the middle of my sons’ action, so I won’t someday hear them in therapy saying their mother spent their childhood with her nose in a laptop locked away in her room. I’ve written in other busy places: conferences, courthouses, schools, train stations, airports.

I’ve written in spectacularly beautiful places — on a cliffside balcony looking over the Mediterranean in Positano, Italy; in a beautiful hotel room; at famously photogenic beach. Few places are as beautiful as that empty chair in the picture with this post, where I am sitting right now on the sun porch of my mother’s house in Connecticut, looking out over her gardens as she and my son weed.

ard na sidhe blogBeautiful places and busy places have often left me with ideas to write from. My current WIP began with an image from a gorgeous mountain lake in County Kerry, Ireland.

But, ironically, my philosophy about “where to write” is the same as my philosophy on buying notebooks or pens for writing: the best writing places are equivalent to or more boring than the writing you’re doing. If you’ve ever had writer’s block, then never buy some heirloom-gorgeous writing journal because you’ll be too afraid to write a wrong word in it. I’d rather a boring composition notebook, any day.

As beautiful as this seat is in my mom’s sunroom, I’ve spent more time photographing it and writing about it than working through the list of revisions I’m supposed to be making.  As we get ready to drive back south tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll lament leaving this beautiful location many times. But the truth is, it does me well to dip in such beauty and then retreat to the quiet where the words I need to work on are the main attraction.

As a final thought, I think the best writing seats have good chi — air flows readily so your ideas feel free to unravel — yet are not in the main line of that energy. For example, that seat pictured in the window demands the action of looking out onto the world, in the traffic flow of the main door. In reality, these last two weeks, I’ve written better when snugged into the sofa set back in that same room, with a similar view and still in hearing of all the house’s activity, but sheltered behind the main traffic and action.

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What About You?

Is your writing space important to you as you write, or are you portable in your work? Do you have rituals, like favorite quotes or icons on your desk, or other ways your writing space gets you going? What would you change, if you could? What would you recommend writers look for or avoid in a good writing space?

If you’ve posted about your writing space in the past, feel free to leave your link in the comments.

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Filed under Writing Life, Writing Process & Routine

21 responses to “Writing Process: Where Do You Write?

  1. Here’s my office: http://melaniemarttila.ca/2012/07/16/a-virtual-tour-of-mels-office/
    But I also write at the dining room table (for a change of location) or in my back yard. The last hasn’t been possible this year because the patio I ususally use for my outdoor office is under construction. The hubbie hopes to have the new gazebo up sometime this week, but, as always, there are challenges to be overcome.
    I also write on the road when I travel for work. I take the lap top with.
    One of my friends recently bought a new house and intends to have weriting nooks all over the place, plus a “writer’s shed” in the back yard.
    I read The Right to Write last year, and Julia Cameron explained all the different places she writes in and around her house.
    Having a room of one’s own isn’t sufficient anymore. A writer must have a domain!


  2. Jennifer Kirkpatrick Brown

    I recently moved into a new house where I have created a really wonderful writing room. Cushy chair, inspiration covered cork boards…the space is airy and light-filled and inspirational. Do I write there? Nope. Never. Instead I get up in the morning, go in there, grab my computer, and head down into our relatively dank basement to write. I have no idea why I do this. But the basement works for me right now.


    • elissa field

      Jennifer, I’m laughing because I have a fab office like that, too. We made a point to have an extra room when we built our house and it’s tricked out with 2 desks, book cases, printer, storage, even a laminator. I’ve written there sometimes, but it’s more where I go to find a book or print something or file something away. It’s nice to know it’s there — it serves its purpose, just not to attract my constant company. :) I love that you have inspiration boards.


  3. I always have these wonderful fantasies of writing in beautiful spaces and from cozy retreats. Only recently, I realized that I need a good desk and a better desk chair to really be productive. Fortunately, I have that in my home office which is where I mostly write.


    • elissa field

      Joy, isn’t it a relief to know that? It’s kind of why I shared this today — it can be tempting to wonder what we’re missing out on, or what might be better if writing somewhere exotic or “literary”… and sometimes we really just need that chair and desk. :) Thanks for commenting.


    • elissa field

      Thanks for sharing this link, Michelle. It was great to see the picture as well as your reasons for liking to write in a sculpture garden.


  4. Veronica Roth

    Morning pages right in my bed over a cup of tea, or, if I’m feeling really wide awake then at the writing desk upstairs in my office. :)


  5. I did the same thing: fixed up a great work area when I moved in but mostly write at the dining room table. I like to write in libraries, coffeehouses, restaurants and pubs (they are great during that quiet time between lunch and happy hour): there’s something about being around other people who are not talking to me that frees me up to write & of course it helps to be away from the distractions at home.


    • elissa field

      Barbara, I like the energy of writing with others around, too. I used to like writing at my office (my desk at the courthouse, in a prior career) because the general noise of the office released ideas about fiction I was writing outside work. Thanks for sharing.


  6. Great essay!
    My current home writing space is seen in a photo, here: http://www.madmacedonian.com/2013/07/31-days-of-gratitude-summer-2013-day-4.html

    I have written on buses, in fast food joints, in parks, at museum cafes, in airports, hotel rooms, even while in the hospital.

    In 2008 I wrote an essay titled: Describe Your Ideal Writing Space…
    It begins this way: “Fill it to the last detail.

    When you are finished, read the description with an eye toward patterns and details.What does it say about you? What does it tell you about your writing goals and dreams? Does it say anything about your vision of what a writer is? There are no right answers. (What do YOU think what I have written below says about me, dear reader?)”

    If you are looking for an interesting exercise in writing…


    • elissa field

      Thanks for sharing that, Kiril. My office used to be much more of a statement. The books on the shelves directly behind me, for example, are by the authors most important to me and my most valuable first editions (from when I used to trade rare books) and books on the 7 major faiths — as if the power of all of those “had my back” while I was writing. All the symbols and equipment are still there but my move to writing wherever/whenever is likely a symbol of needing to eke every writing opp out of a very busy schedule with kids and teaching. It’s an interesting series of questions. Thanks for commenting.


      • Thank you Elissa.

        What my photo doesn’t show is what is on the rest of the wall behind the desk:
        2 framed collection of my best inspirations essays and poetry, and printed out images of the Friendly Blogger, Beautiful Blogger, and Versatile Blogger awards fellow bloggers gave me over the years, and another frame with an essay of mine recently published in the Houston Chronicle, and the article it was in response to.


  7. I have worked out of my home for years and have a home office. I wish I could tell you that it was beautiful and full of light and had a great view. It has nothing like that. I actually face a corner. But I do have all sorts of lovely do-hickies around that I can play with or think about fondly. I am so delighted when warm weather rolls around and I can use our back sun porch. It starts my day with light and airiness. I don’t do much writing there but it feeds me for when I go into my office.


    • elissa field

      It sounds like you’ve carved out the kinds of space you know help you to make the most of your working time. That’s great! Thanks for commenting.


  8. elissa field

    Have to share, from the Facebook chatter on this post: Gerry Wilson, Bolton Carley and I are forming a couch contingent! Couch writing rules! ;)

    For everyone, thanks for a fun and useful conversation.


  9. Kris Swanguarin

    Here is where I work in the summer. My travel trailer (hopefully I’m going somewhere) without internet. I must have keys and a few rocks on the desk. Lots of air flow and sun light. Mornings are best when there is a bit of chill in the air and a promise of warmth. Note the plain notebook where my first poem drafts go. It is cheap and unpretentious so I can have my way with it.


  10. Love the idea of a space having good chi. I never thought about that before. I am kinda wondering how the energy of my newly cleaned office is now…


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