Saturday, February 2, 2013

Creative Writer's Space

Our surroundings affect us in different ways, are a reflection of our own personalities and how we work.

For writers, this is especially true. I know it is for me and for many other writers with whom I have spoken. We all have our own ways of inspiring ourselves so that when we sit down to make our daily offering to the muses of our craft we are able to give our best.

It’s not always easy though, is it? What if you are travelling or on your lunch break, away from the items that surround you at your home base? What are the advantages to writing away from home base?

For me, when I settle down to write fiction set in the Roman Empire or ancient Greece, I like to think of my space as my ‘campaign tent’, my base of operations. After all, a novelist is really a general of sorts, planning, strategizing and then attacking.

You need to bring all of the intelligence that you have gathered over the course of your research and travels together to form a coherent story. You need to devise words that will inspire legions (One hopes!) of readers so that they want to follow you farther down the road, deeper into the tale.

Of course, I have not pitched a tent in my flat and my space is small. It is crammed with my computer, maps, photos, weapons (ie blunt swords), notes, books and artwork. All that is usually accompanied by a cup of coffee, tea or cup of wine, depending on the time of day.

I can slip into the past in my ‘campaign tent’ and write away for hours.

My 'Campaign Tent'
But, let’s face it. When you have a day job, as most writers do, as well as a family life (always comes first and foremost), there are not many opportunities to sit down for hours to write at home base. And even when you can write quietly at home there is always the temptation to get up and get yet another cookie or similar delectable, something to take your attention away from the true task.

Out of necessity, I have to find other places to write simply because I am not at home. I’m on the front lines of my life. Lunch time, for me, is when I can get a solid hour of writing in. Yes, it’s hurried and can be hectic, but the noise of the modern agora helps to drown out all else and lets me focus.

Of course, there is Starbucks. Yes, the mega coffee chain is a beacon for writers of all sorts. Go into any Starbucks location and I guarantee you will find some writer scribbling or tapping away. It’s great! You have one table that is your space to focus on, no chores, no fridge to go to on a whim. Just make sure you buy something because there is nothing more annoying that someone taking up the limited spacing and obviously not eating or drinking something.

Toronto City Hall Green Roof
Summer Writing Space
Coffee shops can get expensive though, so during the warm months, I like to sit outside in a bit of green space for my lunchtime writing. However, at the moment, it is about -25 Celsius so there is no way I’m doing that. A colleague of mine the other day recommended a hidden square inside a neighbouring office building. I decided to check it out.

I’m so glad I did. It isn’t easy to find a quiet spot in a busy downtown like Toronto but this spot has natural light, a large fountain and great tables and chairs. I may hunker down there for the next few months until I can get outside again.

But, there are dangers to staying in the same spot for too long.

New Writing Spot
I read an ARTICLE the other day that gives some interesting tips for creative space, particularly around coffee shops. The thing that jumped out at me was that staying in the same spot and developing a routine can be detrimental to your creativity. So, be sure to mix it up!

Try to rotate your writing locations and see how that works for your creativity. It is nice to get to know staff in a certain spot like the coffee shop but the reality is, if I only have one hour of solid writing time in the middle of my day, that last thing I should be doing is chatting away.

Write on!

What is your creative spot like? Do you like to move around or stay in one place?
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