Some writers may be able to write anywhere—but I’m not one of them. I have a few key requirements:
I need to be assured that I’ll be left alone for a while. If the house is full of family who might pop in at any time with a question or request, I have trouble focusing on the scene in my head that I’m already struggling to envision. I’m easily distracted and soon I’ll wonder about whatever I was asked—if they’re going to Target, will they remember to buy milk? Equally distracting is the peevishness I’m likely to feel—really? Can’t I even be left alone for an hour? That’s why writing before everyone is awake often works or writing when my husband is the only one in the house.
The place doesn’t need to be perfectly quiet, but I can’t listen to music. It’s too interesting and soon I can’t hear the words inside my head. Ambient noise is OK, though. The dull roar of a coffee shop is fine. The sound of my husband practicing guitar doesn’t bother me. People laughing or kids squabbling in the distance barely register.
Physical comfort matters. If I feel a chilly draft or sweat trickles down my back, I’ll lose concentration. Similarly, if my chair is uncomfortable, a niggling twinge will gradually become an insistent backache. At that point, I’m done.
But aside from these basic features, some places simply have a better vibe than others. Some times it’s history. If I’ve written well and easily one place, I’m apt to go back to it. And usually there’s some appealing quality of light—bright daylight that energizes and cheers me or cozy lamplight surrounds and comforts me.
I’ve returned again and again to these places:
Lebanon Hills Park, 15 minutes from home – Halfway down the hill overlooking the lake, I set up the lawn chair that lives in my trunk during the warm months. I bring my laptop, a bottle of iced tea and a snack, and I’m set for a few hours. When I need to stare into space, the lake shimmers before me. Sunlight filters through the trees, and periodically as partial shade turns into full sun, I slide my chair out of the sun. I’ve written and revised large chunks of my memoir here.
My bright back porch in warm weather and my sunny family room in cold months.
Most coffee shops . . . as long as I won’t run into anyone I know!
Where does the muse find you?