Thinking about craft is always necessary, but we should also consider other aspects of how we write. In this post, Young Writers Program Participant Zoe Ward gives some advice on finding a place to write:
Ben Franklin liked to write in the bathtub. Maya Angelo paid for a hotel room by the month. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up, Agatha Christie needed a cold bath and lots of apples, and Truman Capote always laid down, calling himself “a completely horizontal author.”
Needless to say, the world is intrigued by where writers write.
What is the key to each place that makes ordinary people create extraordinary novels?
The short answer: complete focus. Agatha Christie and Ben Franklin liked the bathtub as it took a little extra effort to get out of it. Maya Angelo preferred the hotel room: without the human distractions. A good writing space needs to separate you from everyday life enough so you can focus, but not so much that you can’t get there easily.
Maybe your idea of a perfect writing space is a clean room with the blinds drawn and nothing but a sheet of paper on the desk. This works fine if you are Marie Kondo, but it’s a bad sign if you spend more time setting up your writing space than writing. Your creative space doesn’t have to be pristine. It can be noisy (some writers like to sit in traffic) and vibrant. Just make sure that all the sounds and sights around you are inspiring, not distracting.
E.B. White said: “I never listen to music while writing. I haven’t that kind of attentiveness, and I wouldn’t like it at all.” However, he says he wrote in “a bright cheerful room,” “at the core of everything that goes on.” He described it as “the carnival going on all around me.”
There’s no exact formula for a perfect writing space. It’s all about knowing yourself. What time of day are you most productive? What noise level do you need? I can’t write without some type of sound. I need quiet music, the vacuum downstairs, or rain sliding down the window. Heroine Betsy Ray from the Betsy-Tacy books needed a picture window. Figure out what makes your pen move.
Another thing that goes hand-in-hand with creating (or finding) a writing space is making it inviting. Someone once told me that wherever you write needs to simulate all of your senses. You can’t just appeal to sight and leave every other sense by the wayside. Little things like lighting a candle, grabbing a blanket, or eating apples like Agatha Christie will help make your creative area more defined. Soon, your brain will start to associate the pictures you have on the walls, a mint in your mouth, etc. with writing. Then, whenever all of these things happen in a certain environment, it’ll be easier to write.
You shouldn’t dread sitting down at your desk. Yes, some days writing is hard, but your workspace should make it easier. Many authors always leave their stories when they know what’s going to happen next. Nothing’s worse than sitting down, eager to write, and staring at a blank page for an hour. This simple trick makes you more excited to write (aka making your writing environment more productive) and gets your creative juices flowing.
In short, writing can be hard. But the space in which you write shouldn’t be. Finding somewhere inspiring and cultivating it to give you complete focus can transform your writing habits. Switch up your area and see its effects in your novel. Write on!
Zoe Ward is a reader, writer, spring lover, and bunhead who believes in the power of writing. The writer of blog Pen2Paper, she seeks to help authors find their voices and help the world read a little more (which we can all agree makes it a better place). If she’s not scribbling poems on Post-its, you can find her eating cookie dough, dancing around her kitchen, or memorizing Anne of Green Gables.
Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Suzy Hazelwood on Flickr.