Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On finding the right place(s) to write

Get three writers together and ask where the best writing happens, and you'll likely get three different answers, or, sometimes more. I myself exclusively write in small, non-franchise coffee shops, like the Bohemian , or, when I lived in Michigan, the Red Eye . I find these environments exhilarating; I love the background noise, the randomness of the patrons, and the conversations that can crop up out of nowhere with people I've never met before. All the noise and activity invigorate me, and the conversation, while sometimes an unpleasant distraction, often stimulates me and brings me back to reality. After all, I'm writing about people , and the interaction with living, breathing humans can help keep my characters living and breathing on the page. Plus, there's coffee, and anytime I want I can stand, go outside, and enjoy the weather.

I've never been able to write in a quiet place; a library, a bookstore, and definitely not at home. Writing for me, in a way, is work, and like a job I must leave the comfort of my home if I am to do it at all. I must go to write, just as I have to go and make a living.

As much as I love writing in coffee shops, it clearly isn't for everyone. One fellow writer, Michael V. Gibson does most of his work seated at his desk, in his bedroom, on a computer so old that it does not have an internet connection. The computer is so old it is made out of that Bakelite-type of yellow plastic stuff. It's so old that the keyboard and mouse are attached by wires. Wires! As much as I cannot fathom how he gets anything done, he churns out some of the best and most insightful work I've ever read.

I know another that sits at his kitchen table and writes everything out longhand, then later takes the time to retype it into his computer. I don't know where he finds the time for that. But it works for him. His poetry is insightful, and far better than mine.

And what about the bar? Yes, there are those that write over a pint in the middle of the night, and, I have to admit, I've done this myself, and found it refreshing, if you'll pardon the obvious pun. One author you may know, who sometimes writes at local pubs, Timmy Reed says that the best part of writing in at a bar is that "people will tell you what they really think." In his opinion, some of the best criticism comes from people that didn't want to listen to you in the first place. You know you wowed them if they don't tell you to 'fuck off.' I guess there's something to that.

Myself, I can't write when I'm drunk, although it could be argued that I can't do it while sober, either, so the bar isn't going to work for me.

The big question is, "does it matter where you write?" The big answer is, "yes."

But not in that there is a "good" or "bad" place to write. What's important is does a particular place or type of place work help or hinder your efforts. If, in the process of writing, you find the dreaded block, consider moving to a new location. Normally write in a coffee shop? Go to the bar, or go home, or get out the notebook and ride the bus for a few hours. Having trouble? Leave the bar, head to a 24-hour diner, sober up, walk (don't drive) home, and try writing in the morning. Can't seem to focus at the kitchen table? Add some noise! Go out, write in the park, at the beach... too poor to go out? Pretend you're going out by listening to ambient noise . It's worth a shot, isn't it?
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