Where do you write?

As regular readers will know, I have a horror of ritualisation. The habits and processes that writers use to gear themselves up to write must be useful, not damaging, and one of the most damaging I know of is the need to be in a certain place, at a certain time, with certain accessories, before you can write.

Ritualisation itself is not bad, in fact it’s a positive process, like the creative visualisation that dancers and athletes use to prepare for intense performances. If you can see yourself writing strongly and confidently in your mind’s eye, then you are more likely to sit down and write with fluency and aplomb. If, on the other hand, you see yourself having to make a cup of coffee, drink half of it, read the leader in the Telegraph, check your emails and open the post before you can write, then anything that throws that process out of joint will throw your writing out of the window. No coffee? No writing. Email programme crashes? No writing. And so on.

So I write in bed for half an hour every morning when I wake up. I write on the bus. I write in cafes. I write in hotels and on trains and, especially, in airports. I do write at my desk for hours every day, but all those other places are encompassed in my writing ritual too. I write in Moleskins, I write in shorthand pads, I have even been known to write on the back of Pizza Express order pads and a story that won me $250 saw the light of day on the inner front cover of a cheap crossword book in Paradise Park amusement centre—it was the only paper to hand and the pen I used was lent to me by the bingo caller!

And this is The End of the Lanes, possibly the best hot chocolate shop in the UK, and that’s my notebook, containing the first draft of a(nother) radio play. Write anywhere? Yes. But write better when I’m drinking hot chocolate, waiting for a friend, and gazing out at Brighton’s wonderfully eccentric population. Always!


  1. Sandra Scoppettone
    19th January 2008

    I envy you. I always thought it would be wonderful to write in a diner or a cafe, but I’ve never been able to do it.

    What I do is to sit down at my desk in my office at about 9 in the morning and write until about noon or 1. I don’t have to have anything special to drink. I use a computer to write and have never written longhand. Always directly on whatever tool is current,like the typewriter used to be. For awhile I let myself open email before I started but that didn’t work so I’ve stopped doing that. In my own ritualistic way I’ve managed to get 19 novels written and published and a few short stories.

    I think whatever gets you there is what you should do.

  2. Anonymous
    20th January 2008

    Trouble is I’m not writing at the moment, but when I do it’s at my computer, in my office, normally after 10.00pm, as I’ve got to get work cleared away first.

    If there is any ritual, I tend to use my twenty four year old fountain pen, given to me by one of my sisters, to write notes, but this is more just because I love my pen, I can actually type much quicker than I write now 🙂 [The pen has all the black bits worn off back to brass where by hand and fingers old it. Ahem, I better stop now.]

    Mark Hubbard

  3. Nik's Blog
    21st January 2008

    Another fountain pen fan! Wonderful, Mark.

    I will (and now, can) only write at my desk in my office. Otherwise I wouldn’t stop. Ever. And that’s (for me) not healthy. Horses for courses. And the only cafe round here that’d suffice is never bloody open.

    Poems and shorts tend to be longhand (using, of course, a fountain pen) with longer pieces going straight on to the computer.


  4. Lisa R.
    23rd January 2008

    I too, resist routines. I like that I write in a lot of locations, at different times of day, with different materials. Good thing, because parenthood insists on this.
    I once wrote an entire essay on the back sheets of the baseball stats book, with a stubby pencil, in the bleachers of a kid’s game. Yeessh.


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