She Writes on Fridays: Where Do YOU Write Best?
What the mental space of place tells us about where we are With the exponential growth and excitement of She Writes, I’ve been a little, uh, busy. So a few weeks back, I officially declared Fridays a day for devoting myself—even if only for 30 minutes on the subway—to writing. And then it hit me: I actually write best on the subway. And on planes. And on long-distance trains. When I am neither here nor there, when the iPhone is blessedly in the red zone and I am off limits, then and only then these days can it, you know, flow. Where we write says something, I believe, about where we are in our writing lives. In graduate school, I could only write in the monastic quiet of my apartment. When I later wrote my first book, it had to be in cafes. And now, as a first-time mother of four-month-old twins and a founding partner here at She Writes, I can only write in those in between spaces while shuttling from here to there. Having accepted the reality that my current office is rolling and on wheels, I no longer feel itchy. Wherever you go there you are yadda yadda. But it’s an aphorism I’m coming to embrace, along with the notion that my genre changes with the change of locale, and, too, with the season of life. That Madison apartment was great for a single gal in her twenties slaving away at a dissertation. New York City cafes, on writing dates with a writing buddy, were great for a co-edited anthology and then for my first single-authored book. And now, the subway speaks best to the snippet-sized memoir writing I am doing as I chronicle new motherhood and the gendered development of my boy/girl twins. The subway, oddly, is conducive. In the new writing, my sentences are shorter, my thoughts more spontaneous, my language, I think, more clear. So tell me She Writers: Where do you write best these days? What does it tell you about where you’re at in your own writing life? How does where you write affect the material you write? Or TRY THIS: snap a picture of where you write best—not where you think you should be generating those reams of pages for your next novel/essay/script, but the place where your writing spontaneously and productively occurs. Post it on the blog that lives on your profile page here at She Writes. I’ll compile a mash up and post a selection of these photos with my next post, along with links to your blogs. Just be sure to ping me (e-mail me through the site, or at [email protected]) so I know it’s there.

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  • Diane Meier

    I can't imagine being able to write a novel without a computer. The Season of Second Chances was brought forth in stolen moments - stolen in the twenty minutes I waited for a printer to call me back, or to hear from a client about whether they could schedule a meeting with their whole team for Tuesday or Thursday. It was stolen from evenings when I knew that if I worked any longer on a client's I would overwork the whole thing and have to start from scratch. So - the place - the physical spot in which I wrote -- became which ever computer I happened to be near - here, in my office or at the studio desk, or home in CT - where my files transfer. But the emotional "where" was a place where stepping away from the 'day job' was as easy as taking a phone call. Or breaking for tea. Or having a conversation with a colleague. Teddy and Joy and the rest of the cast of the book were just there, waiting for me to give them a moment - and sometimes -- often, actually - it wasn't more than a moment. But what a great break for me.

  • Natalie Wilson

    I'm still figuring this out, and it seems to change. In warmer months, it's under a tree in Central Park with my laptop. I'm so looking forward to that being an option again soon. In the meantime, I'm relegated to my apartment.

    Lately, I've discovered I have to be disciplined in my approach. I used to be able to sit/lie on my couch/bed (I live in a studio, you see), start writing at 11pm and get a wind that would take me til 2 or 3am. My schedule is so hectic now that if I try that, I just fall alseep. So now it's at the table for me, preferably at some time of the day before dinner, with the kitchen timer set for 1 hour. I don't have the luxury of several free hours in a row these days, so squeezing in an hour a day is my goal. I managed to get a whole new scene written that way last week!

  • Deborah, I've posted a photo of my bed on my blog--looking forward to seeing photos of others' favorite spots. This is fun to read.

  • Annette Tomei

    Hi Judith - I am also in love with my little yellow note pad on my iPhone! I'm a cronic list maker and note taker. It makes it so easy.
    I love reading all the great inspirational places to write. Thanks to all!

  • Judith van Praag

    Right now, I am where I think I do some of my best writing, on the couch, in the living room, at this very moment with my iBook, other times with my NEO on my lap. It used to be I wrote best by hand and on the go and I'd type out my notes later. Until 2001, when my arm froze, shutting down all activity from fingertips to elbow. Even when the thaw set in, I wasn't able to write by hand anymore. No more note-taking on the go. Until I got my iPhone! I'm back to taking notes wherever I am, and yes some of my best writing is done on the go again! I love the yellow pad app and being able to later find my notes typed and all in my e-mailbox. So, couch and on the go are best places for "flow", but the best writing I do is behind my computer in my writing den, with my bottom glued to the seat, no where to run, going places only in my mind.

  • I did indeed, finally discover the perfect spot for me! It took traveling 600 miles from my permanent residence in Texas and moving into a condo, which sits alongside the Gulf of Mexico on a beach where I spent my childhood,teen years and on up into early adulthood. I found I was desperately needing to taste, touch, hear, smell, experience all that was at one time, second nature to me. I find it absolutely mind boggling how a certain smell from a nearby bakery can trigger a memory of something far from baked goods within my mind... I currently split my time 50/50 between my home in Texas and the condo in Florida...I have posted a photo of my writing room (which is actually my terrace) on my page.

  • Bev Sykes

    I'm one of these people who can't WRITE, I type. My handwriting is stilted and boring. I think at the keyboard and my fingers keep up with my thought process, so my favorite place to write is sitting at my desk using my desktop. In a pinch, I can use my laptop, but my girth makes having a computer in my LAP uncomfortable (and the dogs who share my lap make it almost impossible)

  • Phoebe Wilcox

    As I've been going through the last or second-to-last edit of my novel here Angels Carry the Sun, I've been noticing that some of the best scenes were written when I had long stretches of uninterrupted time. One was written when I was at the Fine Arts Work Center in Cape Cod several years back. I remember that day. I wrote for about eight hours straight in this quiet little room. I was so carried away I hardly got up to eat or drink or go to the bathroom. But the results were spectacular. In my ordinary life, my best writing time is on my lunch break at work, from noon to one. I often listen to music through buds so not to be so distracted by office chatter. I've had friends marvel though at how I can sit and write in the middle of a noisy, crowded room. That's because I don't have a lot of privacy; my life is teeming with interruptions. And I've always been the sort of person who could be so lost in thought as to miss the bomb blast next door. That's just me!

  • Ashley Ladd

    I write best at Borders and Barnes & Nobles. Unfortunately, today when I went, I couldn't get a seat near a plug before my battery ran down. So I came home and wrote instead.

  • Cris Mazza

    For the "I gotta write this down (or remember this) now" stuff, I use a digital recorder, on my nightstand, on the car seat beside me, etc. But sometimes a notebook and longhand will do for that as well. I don't write well any place but home, though. No public spaces, not even my office on campus. I am getting some pretty bad repetitive-motion issues, though. Not wrists ... my shoulders.

  • Tinamarie Bernard

    For me, it isn't the location so much as the medium. I write my columns and essays on my computer, fingers flying fast as the words pour forth. Poetry, on the other hand, comes out of the blue and I can ONLY write it in free hand. It's as if there are different muses informing my different creative sides, and THEY prefer different environments. Now, if those same muses would provide inspiration at reasonable hours, instead of the occasional 3 am 'I gotta write this down NOW' experiences I sometimes go through...:)

  • Karen Burgess

    I like to mix it up! Writing at home is good in the morning, when it's quiet. Afternoons are good at the library or Starbucks (somehow I have no problem tuning out the other customers, the music coming over the sound system, etc.). I typically need a good 2-3 hours to really get into it and get anything done.

  • Ryshia Kennie

    I write best in my own little space - downstairs in what once functioned as a bedroom and has since had the bed replaced by my desk. If only the carpet too would go - remnants of a previous owner - rich red with gold and black - it's a wake up every morning. Still I've made the room my own, surrounded myself with books and tools of the trade. It's my favourite place to write.

  • I have a terrible habit of writing in bed, sitting up against the wall. It is so bad for my back, and my thighs start sweating from the heat of the lap top (literally on my lap), but something about it feels private and intimate to me, connecting me with late nights spent writing in my journal when I was 16.

  • Cheryl Wright

    I have a laptop and a netbook, which I use in the kitchen and living room during the day in-between babysitting my granddaughter. However, I write best sequestered at my desk, which sits in a 2' x 4' alcove in my bedroom. It is tight yes, but it helps to keep me focused. And I need focus to maximize those nighttime hours when I'm tired and sleepy after a busy day.

  • Ami Hanna

    I agree with the picture on the post. I write very well in a space where I have an interesting and flexible observation point. Sometimes that's on a seat riding a train or perhaps it's at my desk. The physical space itself is transmutable depending on the frame of mind. I agree that music does help that frame of mind, and it IS in fact portable.

  • The Tea Lounge in Brooklyn on Union Street, which is where I wrote my first book, "Financial Intimacy," is still "my" spot. I find the atmosphere to be nourishing and distracting, at just the right moments in just the right way.

  • Joan Colby

    As a poet inspiration often strikes at unlikely times and places, too frequently in the car driving. Now that texting while driving is an offense, can writing while driving be far behind? My little red notebook contains illegible scribbles that have to be swiftly deciphered --perhaps at the next red light.

  • Michelle Maskaly

    I write best when I'm in the Adirondacks. Specifically, sitting on my couch with a glass of wine or cup of tea, a blanket over me and a puppy dog sitting in my lap. The element puts me in a completely relaxed state-of-mind and gives me the confidence that I can write anything I put my mind to.

  • Julie Maloney

    I would love to meet you, Deborah! We could lunch outside at Bryant Park. Yes? Let's make it happen in the late spring. Lots to share. Bring a pix of your twins!

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    Julie, I'm a huge fan of the Rose Reading Room. Maybe sometime in the future, I'll see you there!

  • Julie Maloney

    My favorite place to write is the Rose Reading Room at the NYC Public Library. I try to get there on Fridays. I take the train in from the Jersey 'burbs. I have a great writing room at home and plenty of quiet but it is not the same. At home, I have other writing projects that need tending and I find I often cheat my novel in progress. The NYC Public Library has the best energy. Everyone is working, esp. on the North side where there is no internet service. Today, I lifted my head up after four hours and I couldn't believe it. I celebrated on the way back to the train with a glass of prosecco!

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    I am LOVING reading these comments. A cabin, the water, on a run, in a comfy chair, ah....

  • Ginger B. Collins

    My absolute favorite place to write is on the water. Something about the gentle rock of the boat at anchor lulls me into my dream state, (see my blog for photo.) When I'm on land I seem to be more motivated in early afternoon when my "chores" are finished and I have a space of time before dinner. I tried the morning pages. Didn't work for me. I need to feel at peace with the outside world before I can focus on the inside. There is a sign on my workshop door, Writer at Work.It gets the point across.

    Ginger B.

  • Tania Pryputniewicz

    So I have this writing cabin about 15 feet from the main house. But I also have the three kids (9, 7, 3) so Fridays I live in that cabin and write until I'm ready to upload to the internet. All the rest of the week, I keep the laptop in the kitchen so when I'm cooking I can edit a bit. Best of all: when the house is full of sleepers, I sit at the big wooden table downstairs, our dining table, with a cup of tea and write long hand in my journal. The journal, which sometimes I'm apt to think is solely for me with its ramblings, actually holds the image rich, rush and tumble of the reality of raising kids while writing. My senses catch up with me when the house is quiet, and the replay begins. Trying not to discount this time in my life--easy to do, but how vital and lovely, time with the little people. Wouldn't give up the cabin, nor the kitchen counter, nor the big wooden table.