Where do writers write? That’s an interesting question that came up when reading a blog by friend and fellow writer M.L. Humphrey. In her blog, she mentions that she writes in a dedicated office at home, while another of her friends writes in a bar.
For me, I can’t write at home. I used to be able to, but these days it’s difficult for me to find my focus when I’m at home. Usually I go to a coffee shop of some sort, throw on my ear buds, and get to work.
What happens if I try to write at home? Most often, I sit at my laptop and stare blankly at the computer screen.
Why is that? Why do I write better in a coffee shop? Why does my friend write better at home, and why does her friend write better at a bar?
Location, location, location
One of the things that caught my attention in my friend’s blog was when she says she works in a dedicated office at home. I recall reading a long time ago something about separating work life and home life, and that people who work from home need to have a dedicated space to do so.
According to several articles, one of the big reasons behind this is to maintain work/life balance. If you don’t have a dedicated home office, one blog suggests, then your temptation to check your work email or phone ‘after hours’ is strong and your home life starts to suffer.
But it also goes the other way around, I think. If you don’t have a dedicated home office to your writing pursuits, the distractions of home can be too great and make it difficult to focus on writing. Especially if you have a family. I can’t imagine how difficult it is either way for Dads and Moms with kids that aren’t yet going to school, or are on breaks from school. Distractions would abound!
But if having a home office is the answer to undistributed work, then why does going to a coffee shop work for me? Distractions abound in coffee shops, don’t they?
It all comes back down to mindset, and separating home from work, even writing work.
Have you ever walked into a room, then stopped, looked around, and forgotten why you went in there? Surprisingly, there is an explanation for this in science – the Doorway Effect. To put it simply (probably too simply), the mere act of walking from one room into another changes the context in which your brain is operating.
I believe this is a big part of why going to a coffee shop works for me. And why I used to be able to write at home, but have great difficulty now – I don’t have a dedicated office these days. But back when I lived with my parents, we had a dedicated ‘computer room.’ And when I lived in Las Cruces, I had a spare bedroom where I kept my computer.
I didn’t start going to the coffee shop until I moved to Denver. Every time I’ve had a 2nd bedroom since I’ve moved here, I’ve had a roommate. And now that my fiancee and I have moved into a 2-bedroom together, we’ve made the 2nd bedroom into a craft room. I was more than okay doing that, because at this point, I’ve gotten used to writing in a coffee shop, and even prefer it these days.
Which brings me to one other point that my friend M.L. Humphrey made in her blog: sometimes what worked before might not work now or later. And that’s okay.
Writing in a coffee shop works for me now, but it might not always.
Find what works. When you do, go with it. When it stops working, find something else that works. Life is ever-changing, ever-evolving. It’s up to you to keep the writing going.
Something I just thought of: when I was in high school, part of my routine for doing homework was to go into my bedroom, close the door, turn on the TV, and start working on my homework. If the TV wasn’t on, I had trouble doing my homework.
Again, shouldn’t it be the other way around? First, there’s the white-noise phenomenon. Some noise in the background helps me focus, where as no background noise is too ‘loud,’ and I suspect this is the case for many other people. It’s also why I put on ear buds and listen to Lindsey Stirling when I write (seriously, any other music usually distracts me too much.)
But I’m also wondering if this is part of the ‘separation of work and home.’ That routine of going to the same spot, turning on the TV, tuning out the rest of the world, and working on homework was the best way I could set my mind to ‘homework mode.’
So now I’m wondering…could finding a place at home, putting on earbuds, and tuning out the world around me allow me to write at home?
Something to try in the coming days :)
What’s your favorite place to write/work/read?