Posted in Writing

Why You Do Your Best Writing in a Place of Your Own

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In his 2000 craft book On Writing, Stephen King says,

Most of us do our best [writing] in a place of our own.

Stephen King is a big believer in writing in a place of your own, and after writing nineteen novels in nine years, I can tell you that my best work, absolutely, comes when I write in a very specific place — the office at the front of my house.

I’ve written my books in so many different settings. I’ve written morning, noon, and night. When I first started writing novels, I wrote in my tiny bedroom in Los Angeles, sitting down at my desk every night between 10pm and 1am trying my best to put words on the page. I had a small window in the room, but at night I couldn’t see much outside, and so my eyes stayed focused on the computer screen for hours at a time.

When I moved back to Reno in 2011, I wrote a few novels outside my home, often in coffeehouses. There are pros and cons to writing a novel in a place where conversations surround you. The big pro for me, and I know this sounds corny, is that you feel less alone. Writing is a lonely job. You often spend hours a day sitting by yourself in silence. Sometimes it’s nice to have people talking around you, and occasionally the amount of noise actually gave an urgency to my writing, especially when I was writing a long scene of dialogue.

But, at least for me, the cons of an environment like this to do your writing outweigh the pros. A big con is that I’m unable to fully focus on my writing when I have people talking in the nearby vicinity, let alone ten conversations or more surrounding me from every angle. When I’m stuck on a paragraph or a scene or whatever, silence helps me figure out where to go next. When there’s too much noise, I can’t focus. Also, I always feel bad, especially in a crowded coffeehouse, that I’ve stolen a table for two hours or more.

And while this is a minor issue, I have to say it anyway: when you write in a coffeehouse, eventually you need to use the bathroom. And it’s really annoying to have to pack up all your stuff, walk to the bathroom (which may or may not be occupied), and then come back to your table to set up all your stuff again. Worse, that table you’ve been hogging for the past two hours might be taken by the time you return from the bathroom!

I’d say in the past few years, I’ve only written outside the home when for one reason or another I didn’t have the time to get my writing done at home, and I simply had to do my writing somewhere else. In the past it’s been between classes I’m teaching, when I have a two-hour window that’s too short to drive all the way home and back and when I should be using every spare minute instead to work on my writing.

Ultimately a place of your own is the best place to do your writing. That can be a number of places. It can somewhere outside your home even, especially if it’s a place where you feel you have the best opportunity to create and to thrive as a writer. For many people, it’s somewhere quiet outside. For others, it’s a dark room where you can focus for hours on end without ever being interrupted. The bedroom. An office. A basement. An attic. It can be anywhere you want. Just make sure it’s your own place.

For me, the place I do my best writing is the office at the front of my house. Since early 2016, I’ve been lucky to live in a home that has an office completely designed as an ideal writing space. I have a big black desk that faces a huge window. Through that window I can see not only the street and houses but also a huge mountain in the distance that towers toward the sky. When I’m stuck in my writing, I love to sit back in my chair and stare at that mountain. It seems cheesy, but sometimes just thirty seconds fixated on it will bring me the idea I need.

I’ve written on my bed before, and sometimes I write at the dining room table, especially when I’m hungry and like to be closer to the pantry (hey, we all have our weaknesses). But for the most part, the last four novels I’ve written have been drafted and revised in that front office, where I can keep the door closed, sit in total silence, focus my mind on the scene I’m to work on that day. And then, when I finish, I can emerge into the world again, having done some good work for the day.

So if you’re serious about becoming a writer, try to find a place of your own to do your work. Find a place that lets you concentrate. Lets you relax.

And yes, lets you dream.

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