London, Writing

Where do you write?

Two of the most stressful things you can do is move house and start a new job. In December, I decided to do both. I have a philosophy that if you have several hard things to do, do them at the same time because how bad can it be, really? Hum…

Well, I’ve finally finished the move and I’m adoring my new flat. But after finding a bed and a mattress, figuring out where I would write was the next most important thing on my list. I have my desk, but I now also have a new kitchen table next to a big window which is a wonderful source of natural light.

Sourdough is good for the muse

But probably my favourite writing spot is the cafe down the road. Alright, it’s pretty hipster. And the radio is permanently tuned to Magic or Heart. And the food is so incredibly expensive which sucks for me because I’m a constant snacker when I’m writing. But I love the coffee and for the moments I’m stuck, there’s always something to look at.

Where writers write has always been a fascinating subject. Roald Dahl wrote in a shed. Virginia Woolf wrote in the storage room of her and her husband’s publishing business, which was in the basement. Dame Edith Sitwell would lie in a coffin for inspiration and Agatha Christie wrote in the bath.

Interestingly, as well as demanding the builders give her a big Victorian bath in her new home, Christie also asked for a window ledge, “because I like to eat apples.” The more and more I learn about her, the more I’m convinced she’s actually her character Ariadne Oliver.

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But I think the danger of a place, time and ritual when it comes to writing comes from the fact that we are often creatures of habit. It’s easy to think because x, y, z isn’t right, I can’t really get into the writing mood. You’ve got a problem when you start getting that precious about your writing. Honestly, I do it myself. When I go to my local cafe and find someone already at the window seat, I can get rather… Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory about the whole thing.

Not to mention, like every artistic industry out there, I’ve found a lot of writers are mildly superstitious. It stands to reason that in a world where there seems to be no way to summon on command that spark of genius or inspiration, artist types search for explanations. It’s for the same reason actors are so superstitious, because the difference between a career ending night or the performance of a lifetime one could be down to something as simple as being told ‘good luck!’ rather than ‘break a leg’.

It’s perfectly okay to have a certain place, a certain time and a certain ritual to get the creative juices flowing. But remember that if you’re a writer, you’re a writer everywhere. And making yourself break down those boundaries of the ‘right time’ or ‘right place’ to write is important. Because it’s too easy an excuse to use to avoid writing when you’re ‘not in the mood’.

What about you guys? Does anyone have any crazy places they write? Or any writing rituals you care to share? Tell all!


18 thoughts on “Where do you write?”

  1. Funnily enough, I can’t write if I’m locked away in a room, on my own. It has to be out in the open with a bit of background noise happening. I’m probably the only person in the world who would ever consider writing in front of the TV, but I do occasionally and I don’t see or hear a word of it! I’m too buried in my imagination. How that works, I do not know! Too funny!

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    1. That is a real talent! And you’ve definitely the first person I’ve heard of who can. I can’t write if I can hear talking – even music with lyrics is enough to distract me. Thanks for sharing!

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      1. Ha ha! I have to admit, that talent does have a limit: that being, my little people coming up to me, saying ‘Mummy, Mummy!’ or something similar. That’s when it all comes tumbling down. 😛

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      2. Ha! Well, I suppose it would be wrong to phase them out… 🙂 How writers write with children in the building is beyond me, well done for finding any time at all!


  2. I write sitting on the sofa as it’s comfortable, but I think I’d like to be lie Roald Dahl and write in a customised shed. I’m not sure I’d like to write in a bath. I can imagine that would get quite uncomfortable quite quickly. Not to mention cold. I need to also try the cafe thing one day too.

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    1. I think it’s always been the dream to have a ‘shed’ or at least a cozy little cabin in a garden which is just for writing. We can dream!

      I’d always recommend the cafe for when you’re stuck. Being surrounded by life is so helpful!

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  3. The dream would be a converted attic space, or a summerhouse. Space that was only for me. I’m not sure I could write in a cafe, I think I’m too self conscious/ paranoid to relax fully into writing in public.

    I’m happy that you found a sweet spot that works for you! 😊

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  4. I write in two places: at work (oops) and in a blue easy chair that used to belong to my grandfather. I think the comfort of Gipop’s chair gets my creative juices flowing for some reason. Anyway, I find I’m most productive in that chair. I’ve written at cafes and Starbucks before too. I can pretty much take my writing anywhere, as I’m a person who likes change and not as much a creature of habit! 😉

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    1. I tend to write at work too (shhhh…) because it just when you’re brain is most active! Good on you for not falling into a specific place to feel creative.

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  5. I’ve never been able to write with music playing. Recently I read an article about Phillip Pullman that explained it so well. He was quoted as saying that when you are working to create a certain rhythm with your words, the rhythm of background music can interfere.

    What I do find useful when writing out and about is capturing detailed physical descriptions of people and places, plus quirky bits of dialogue to squirrel away for later use.


    1. That is very true – I have a playlist of songs which work really well with my writing, but it has to be the right song for the right mood (or rhythm!) or else it’s too distracting.

      Eavesdropping is the absolute best part of writing outside. There are real things which happen every day which if you had conjured up out of pure imagination would seem ridiculous! I’ve found some of my best characters just on the street or on the tube!


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  7. I’m a full time writer and my house is littered with writing spots. I have a desk next to the saw in the garage where I fend off black widows early in the morning. I stole my fiancé’s vanity desk and stuck it in my tiny closet to hide from the kids and to keep middle-of-the-night thoughts close to me – and smelly laundry. Then, of course, is my official “office” where people think I really work.

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    1. You’re living the dream! I imagine it’s not perfect, but I’ve love to be a full-time writer. It’s so strange how we find these little corners were we can write – hiding a vanity desk in a closet for midnight musings sounds amazing! 🙂


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