I am extremely curious to know how and where writers write. Had I used all the time I’ve wasted on trying out various writing locations in actual writing, I would never have missed a deadline, and also I would be updating this blog far more frequently.
To start with, I usually write at my dining table. It finds itself in an open plan-area that combines the living room/dining area and kitchen area. There’s a window in front of the table, tea-making facilities right behind it, and the table itself is large enough to hold insane amounts of junk that I pretend I need to produce sentences.
Some time ago I started thinking about changing into something jazzier location-wise, so as to spark not only joy, but possibly creativity.
This would be the obvious choice. Every morning upon collecting my brew I used to shoot a jealous glance at the people sprawled across the coffee house, working on their laptops. That was until I tried it myself.
Because I have a job that requires me to spend time in a confined office-space during the week, I could only try this experiment on a weekend. Far from being the serene spot for adult creatives quietly jamming to the beat of Spotify’s coffee house playlist, for some inexplicable reason the place had transformed into a fucking zoo.
– Every toddler within two-kilometre radius was brought in for a group-screaming exercise.
– People stopped respecting my personal space and acted as if we were all extras at some big fat Italian family reunion (“Yes, I do need the chair next to me because it holds my coat and an assortment of my personal objects. Also I’m not interested in your opinions about anything, so thanks“).
– I don’t know the protocol. How long am I allowed to hoard a table after I’ve finished my coffee? This stressed me out so much I kept buying fresh coffee until my heart was beating so fast I nearly keeled over and died.
– Also, how do we navigate the toilets? Who’s responsible for my laptop and various other items spread across the table while I take a toilet break?
– Other people.
All this is surprisingly stressful.
Writing by hand so as to have more options regarding location
J.K. Rowling is famous for having penned Harry Potter at Edinburgh cafés. Ever the optimist, I made pilgrimage to Edinburgh to live such writing experience myself, but I had overlooked the fact that Rowling wrote in longhand, whereas I cannot produce text without a keyboard (this requires a laptop/iPad, which brings back the issue with toilet breaks when at a coffee place).
I also ended up having so many notebooks that I could no longer keep track of which sketchy beginning was in which notebook.
I can do lists and write down anecdotes that I absolutely need to remember, but writing anything longer than a postcard by hand is not going to happen.
I have an extra room in my apartment, which is a very luxurious thing to have. People in Belgium live in spacious apartments, which I think is Karma’s way to balance out the country’s public transport system.
So I thought about turning this extra room into a nice little space to write – after all it’s what Virginia Woolf basically told all of us to do. Between wasting a lifetime online looking for workspace inspiration and storming to buy new furniture, I sat in my extra room one evening with my laptop, test-driving the ambiance. I experienced the worst FOMO ever, convinced that the open plan area in my apartment was in fact the most happening and inspiring spot in Brussels.
I also felt I missed the window, which allows me to observe my neighbour occasionally having a cigarette on his terrace, or a pigeon taking a shit in one of the potted plants on my terrace.
Airplanes and trains don’t work because I don’t like people next to me giving nosy side-eye at my unfinished texts and judging them. I do it all the time myself, so I know.
An exception to everything above is a looming deadline.
Alas, I continue to write at my dining table. The most hassle with this solution is the rare occasion of me having invited human beings into my apartment and having to clear up the junk to make space for plates and such. Given that this isn’t the most natural of my urges, there has been no immediate need to change this arrangement.
My go-to reference book for tips for writing is Still Writing – The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by an amazing biographer and writer Dani Shapiro.