Writing, for all its wonders, is essentially a frustrating experience. It takes a lot of time putting words on a page before you get anything half-decent, and even then, having written anything that will satisfy your own lofty standards is pretty difficult.
To ease the process, writers develop routines. However, routines are contingent on something very important for a writer: having a place to write. While Virginia Woolf laid out the very basic truth that a woman needs “a room of one’s own” to write fiction, I find that a writer of either gender would agree. But how important is that room anymore, especially with the rise of laptops, the Internet, and our endless capacity to multitask?
D.H. Lawrence wrote under a tree, while Hemingway wrote standing up. Which tree? Where was Hemingway standing? The poet Robert Creeley said, “The necessary environment is that which secures the artist in the way that lets him be in the world in a most fruitful manner.” I’m that much more comfortable in a cafe surrounded by other people than alone in my room. When I’m alone, in that ideal room of my own, I’m too tempted by my own laziness, my own ability to become sidetracked than if I was at a cafe, surrounded by other productive people, all those humming brains focused on talking, reading, eating, writing. I am most fruitful when I am in the middle of it all.
But that is certainly not be the case for all writers. Joan Didion took manuscripts to bed with her so she could make corrections in the middle of the night. Toni Morrison wakes before the sunrise so its light can energize her writing. Other writers go for public spaces like libraries. I spent several weeks writing in the beautiful main branch of the New York Public Library before the silence drove me mad. But, still, while I was there, I was productive. Other writers belong to organizations that provide “writers rooms,” rooms geared specifically towards the act of writing.
With a new generation of writers writing solely on laptops and tablets, the need for power outlets has become that much more crucial in finding a space to write. Maybe D.H. Lawrence’s tree won’t be a possibility for writers of fiction anymore, now that many have become accustomed to the rhythm and formatting of writing on a laptop.
Where do you write? What makes a great writing space? Do you still need a room of your own, or does a cafe or library work just as well? Let us know!