I have a romantic image of a writer sitting in a little café scribbling away on a notepad or tapping on a laptop while sipping at a steaming mug of coffee and munching on a scone. Perhaps from time to time the writer gazes off into space, pondering the next finely crafted sentence.
Unfortunately, real life doesn’t seem to work out that way.
When my children were small I worked for a local newspaper. I attended town meetings at night, then came home to write up the stories in the wee hours. I interviewed various people in town who were doing interesting things, as long as I could conclude the interviews in time to get home to meet the school bus.
When I decided to write novels, I sat in the car or on the bleachers during soccer matches and Little League games, scribbling notes on scraps of paper. I hunkered down in my office while every child in the neighborhood—or so it seemed—ran screeching through my house. I stocked up on snacks and told them they could eat whatever they wanted as long as they didn’t interrupt me. Somehow I managed to tune out the chaos long enough to get some work done.
My best writing came when the house was quiet and husband and children were nestled snugly in their beds. I’d write until 4AM and then rise, bleary-eyed, to car pool and cook and do all the other tasks involved in running a household. I’d read articles giving advice to writers to get up an hour or so early to do their writing before the household came to life, but once I was asleep I could never bring myself to give up those last few precious minutes of shut-eye
Now the children are grown and I still want to stick to my night owl ways, except more often than not I wake to find my head resting on the keyboard instead of my fingers.
I have friends who spend their days in Starbucks or in small, local coffee shops, writing on their laptops. They claim the bustle helps them focus.
I have friends who make playlists for each novel and use the music to get themselves in the mood.
And then I have friends who require silence and solitude to do their best work.
I think I tend more toward the silence and solitude side. I think I’d be too distracted sitting in a public place, no doubt eavesdropping on the conversations going on around me. I tried the background music a few times but got caught up in singing the words, even though the music was just instrumental.
I’m thinking of trying a compromise, though. Maybe in an alcove in the public library, where I wouldn’t be tempted to jump up to do another load of laundry or look to see if the mail came yet every time I hit a snag.
Where do you do your best thinking? Is it at a certain time of day or in a certain place? Just please don’t tell me the best ideas come when you’re cleaning the house.