On Writing: Here, There, and Everywhere.

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One of the best writing days of my life …

If I were creating a dream office to write my bestseller in it would have five things: an antique wooden desk, with a great history; a ghost chair that was just uncomfortable enough to make sure I sat up straight and kept my feet on the floor, a huge window to let in light and breeze, a bookshelf full of my favorite books (color coded, of course), and an espresso machine.

You know what’s funny about this vision? The Starbucks where I write at least a couple of days a week (when not at home, with my laptop and a coffee balanced on the couch arm, and Fred the labradoodle happily chewing a bone on my other side) has all these things. Sure, the wooden table isn’t exactly an antique, but I suspect it has absorbed plenty of stories and ideas over the years. There are giant windows, bookshelves with any book I could want, a just-uncomfortable-enough chair, and coffee. So. Much. Coffee.

Which basically means I DO have my dream office … it just isn’t in my house. And the truth is, I tend to get a lot more done at Starbucks than I do at home, where reminders of things like laundry, supper, and untidy spaces that need tidying are constant distractions. I also love the opportunity to people watch and interact on occasion, even if just to exchange a smile or raise a mug in solidarity over deadlines and writer’s block.

What I have learned about writing, at least for me, is that I can do it anywhere. I have trained myself to write at five in the morning, while my early-to-rise young daughter watches a show on Netflix, both of us drinking hot beverages to get us going (warm milk and cinnamon in her case, coffee in mine). I have written during her gymnastics class, my laptop balanced on my knees and the sounds of squealing children filling my ears. I have written at airports, in restaurants, outside at parks, in packed hotel conference rooms, during bouts of the stomach flu and sleepless newborn nights, on the cottage dock, in ski chalets, and even in my car (Note: I have also done all these things WITHOUT writing, just so you don’t think my laptop is permanently attached to my fingertips).

So while I love the idea of an office oasis, with a door that closes and beach house blue paint on the sunlit walls, I think I might be lonely if I actually had to work in that space. I like the variety of writing somewhere different — even if just in another room in my house — and the vibrancy of company I don’t have to talk to, and write best with a little white noise as my soundtrack.

Now that I’m about to launch into my second book, I will be back to writing every day (my daily goal when I’m drafting is 2,000-2,500 words a day), with Scrivener (this writing software has CHANGED MY LIFE), coffee, and Fred as constant companions … and with just enough self-doubt thrown in there to keep me focused and motivated. And whether those words get down while I’m in my living room, at the kitchen table, in the backyard, or at my local Starbucks, I’ve done this enough times to know regardless of where I am, they will get down.

So where do you write? Do you need absolute quiet, or do you like the hum of a crowded coffee shop? I’d love to hear about it!

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Karma Brown is the author of COME AWAY WITH ME (MIRA/Harlequin, September 2015), an emotional story of one woman’s discovery that life is still worth living, even if it’s not the life you planned. Karma is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist, and lives outside Toronto, Canada, with her family and their mischievous labradoodle puppy, Fred.

This article has 8 Comments

  1. When you were listing your essential five things, I noticed that you didn’t mention a computer (though you did refer to it later), and that made me think that writing in cafes is not exactly a recent invention.

    Hemingway used to do it in Paris in the 1920s, after all. He used a pencil and a cahier, but that’s a minor detail.

    I imagine writers will be writing in cafes long after laptops and Scrivener are as obsolete as rotary phones and manual typewriters.

  2. I tend to write in silence, which I know is weird for some. I used to think I needed the laptop on the table where I can sit straight and write (that’s where I do most) but it turns out, I can write at the cottage with the laptop on my lap, or in the bed, or a variety of other places. A quiet space and few distractions (or interruptions) seem to be my most constant needs.

    I don’t have a Fred to keep me company, I’m jealous 😉

    1. Writing in silence makes me nervous! 😉 But I think most important thing for any writer is to to figure out what works best them, and to experiment to find the perfect combination of writing space and atmosphere.

  3. Also HEART Scrivener! I don’t do anything super-fancy with it, but I like to break down the chapters and have the little notecard board to see a makeshift outline!

    Also, must ask: what’s your poison at Starbucks?

    1. I don’t do anything fancy with Scrivener either, but the corkboard feature? THE BEST. As for my “poison” at Starbucks, it’s either an Americano or a 1/2 sweet London Fog — depends on my mood 🙂

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