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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Butt in Chair: But Where?

I was chatting with a writer friend who is vacationing in rural Oregon at the moment and he complained to me that he just can’t write. It’s too quiet. He’s bored. He thought a remote area populated by elk, tule and dark clouds would be perfect but he was wrong. In fact, the only work he has done is a puzzling page with “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” typed over and over.

I have a good friend in Germany who is a novelist. She frequently goes on media fasts and repairs to a small cottage in Greece for weeks at a time, only leaving the cottage to go to the market and buy wine and food. It sounds heavenly to the Wave-inatrix, and my friend certainly loves it and finds herself to be quite productive. But that kind of isolation is not for everyone.

I personally love to write in cafés because I like the white noise of other people chatting; it makes me feel alone and yet not alone. I need something going on in the background. If I write at home, I have the radio on softly in the background and make sure to walk and get coffee or a bagel each morning so I get out of the house.

Writers need focus so we can journey inward to that other-worldly place where stories are born and where characters speak through us. For some, a cabin by a lake is perfect and for others, well – you saw THE SECRET WINDOW, right?

Other writers love a café or otherwise bustling atmosphere where there is people watching and a sense of aloneness within the crowd. But then we’ve all seen TAXI DRIVER as well.

Finding the right atmosphere, time of day and location is crucial to maintaining a writing schedule. The Wave-inatrix is herself guilty of not doing that much writing lately. But it’s one of those things like exercising – you can rationalize to yourself that you just don’t have time, or you can fit it into your daily routine and be amazed how much you can accomplish in 30 to 60 minutes.

Take some time, as we approach the New Year, to examine your likes and dislikes when it comes to writing. This is one area where you get to spoil – and be honest – with yourself. Being a writer is a competitive, grueling, fantastic, strange way to make a living. But nobody is going to do it for you. Three words: Butt in chair. But where?

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Patti said...

I live in a semi-rural area, but have a bevy of children who constantly make noise. (It's not a white noise, though -- quite loud and Red-ish Purple -- as in bloody noses and bruises). I prefer a cafe, too, if I had the choice because I don't have to get up to refill my coffee cup.

Lately, I've taken to scribbling notes in a notepad while sitting in the pew at Church. I'm thinking God doesn't mind, because all things work to the Lord's greater good. Right?

Emily Blake said...

I guess I'm lucky. As long as I have the laptop and a pair of headphones I can write anywhere.

Anonymous said...

...all things work to the Lord's greater good. Right?

Patti, unless you write a blasphemous tale then I think God does mind, or at least the writer gets too spooked to get any word out.

D. Montoya said...

Wave-inatrix Dear,
I'd love to participate in your poll, but I find that I'm oh-too-business-like for it. There's no option for "I go to my office and write." And, since you asked: Smooth jazz, view of the mountains, and best work done after a lovely lunch but before happy hour.

Julie Gray said...

Whoa - you have an *actual* office FOR writing?? I'm not worthy!

I read an interview with Michael Chabon a few years ago in which he described the lovely little bungalow in the garden of his North Berkeley brownshingle, that is his writing office. I was and continue to be three shades of green thinking about that little writing bungalow in the Berkeley hills.
I aspire to it, however, and someday - one fine day, Michael Chabon, I'll wave to you from MY bungalow next door :)

Jake Hollywood said...

I, too, usually write in my office. I prefer writing at our retreat in Carmel, but we (my wife's in law school) don't leave town very often. One of these days we're going to chuck life in LA and move up the coast permanently.

Jenny Wynter said...

I LIKE writing at home, however the harsh reality is that I get ten times more written when I just take the laptop to a cafe, ideally where they have no wireless internet! As much as I love cyberspace, it does nothing for my sense of focus and getting the words out!