“I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down.”
Truman Capote, The Paris Review, Issue 16, 1957
Who would ever have thought it? Certainly not me. But I have something in common with Truman Capote. Partially. When I’m not working a second job, I do all my writing in bed. Sitting up with all the pillows propping me into position with my laptop on my thighs and my notebook open next to me. When I am working a second job, and my second jobs are always office jobs, I write at my desk on my lunch break and then come home at the end of the day to do more writing in bed.
I used to write in my study where I have a PC and all my books but gradually I found myself wanting to be in my study less and less. I don’t think it was the room itself. I think it was a few things. I think it was the desk chair I have. It’s not at all comfortable. The longer I sat in it, the more uncomfortable I became. I think it was the weather in winter. All I wanted was to be under a blanket because I refuse to heat my entire open plan house when I’m the only person in it. I also think it was the weather in summer. The study is upstairs. Upstairs in my house in the summer is stinking hot and I don’t have air-conditioning so I spend most of my time downstairs during the warmer months.
Not wanting to be in the room that had the computer in it affected the time I devoted to my writing. Eventually I decided I needed a laptop so I could write anywhere (in bed, upstairs, downstairs, not at home at all) and it was the best decision I ever made. Even though the study and my bedroom are right next to each other, there is no comparison to the amount of writing output I’ve been able to achieve since I bought the laptop.
I have a friend who goes to her beach house to write and uses the view as inspiration. I have another friend who goes to a bed and breakfast to write. The theme here seems to be getting away from the pressures of the everyday, whether that means partners, family, friends, pets or work. And also getting away from distractions. No interruptions.
I suspect this wouldn’t suit me though. Mainly because I’ve never done it and yet I still seem to have a reasonable writing output. But also because I can’t write without my books. When I am writing, I will constantly get up and go to the study to pull a book off the shelf and consult it. I did it while I was writing this blog post, revisiting the Matthew Reilly chapter in James Phelan’s book Literati: Australian Contemporary Literary Figures Discuss Fear, Frustrations and Fame. I remembered that Matthew Reilly talked about working at his local RSL when he was first starting out, alternately checking people’s badges at the door as they came in and jotting down notes for his novel.
I have thousands of physical books. And referring to the internet (which I also do) just doesn’t compare when I am looking for a specific passage in a specific book I have previously read. So rather than thinking about a way to cart them about in order to write somewhere else, it’s easier just to stay at home.
What about a library? I know a lot of writers favour this option because the books are all there just waiting for them. I also know I shouldn’t say this because it seems wrong for a writer to admit but I don’t go into libraries anymore. I haven’t been into a library for years. And the last few times I was in a library, it was to attend the annual general meeting of my body corporate (we had hired the meeting room).
I wouldn’t be able to cope with the distractions of the other people in the library. I’m a natural observer. I like to watch things going on around me. But this is not helpful when I’m trying to write. I need a silent (not quiet, entirely silent) space without anyone else around.
The other thing about travelling to a place to write is that I lament the lost travel time in which I could have been writing. Sometimes all you need is an hour to write but if you spend a half hour getting to where you are going and another half hour coming back, then you’ve actually used two hours and accomplished only half of what you potentially could have.
JK Rowling wrote in a number of cafés during the early days of Harry Potter, including Nicolson Café (which was owned by her brother-in-law) and the Elephant House café, although she was raising a young child at the time and has admitted the walk to the café was the best thing for getting the baby to go to sleep. I know other writers who like the café option as well. But I’d feel compelled to purchase a beverage to justify my presence and as anyone attempting to survive on the earnings of just your writing will know, a coffee a day can add up to a lot of money that could have been spent on electricity or rent.
There are a huge number of options when it comes to choosing where to write and a lot of factors that make one option more appealing than others to some writers and not appealing at all to other writers.
So where does the writing magic happen for you?