Sunday, April 12, 2015

Where Do You Write? by Richard Prosch

So, today as I sit down to write in a familiar environment, I'm curious about you, Fictioneers.

Where do you write?

Not the setting your fictional characters live in. 

I'm wondering about your physical environment. Home? Office? Patio? And how superstitious are you about that place?  Is it clean? Cluttered?

Several years ago, I realized that it was easier for me to more quickly get into (and out of) the zone at a local coffee shop than in my home office. With time always in short supply, sinking quickly into that place where all the distractions vanish, where the story runs crystal clear through your head like a cold-water stream, is vital.  

For me, it makes sense. No ringing phone. No email to check. No family distractions, and nobody driving up to knock on the door.  Hot coffee on hand. Pleasant music. 

One enjoyable aspect of writing in public is people watching. And listening. A couple years ago, a local PI used the corner table for a temporary office. I got a kick out of listening to him discuss cases  over his Bluetooth ear piece. His slogan should've been "We take the private out of private detective."

But the place is far from perfect.  Every now and then, a writing session gets dangerously interrupted by some loudmouth talking religion or politics. Or one of the friendly regulars (bless 'em)  stops past my table to chat. And there's ergonomics to consider. Even though I protect my wrists while typing, the chair isn't the best for long term work.

So it's great for quick sessions. Say an hour, or two with a break. A thousand words.

For longer sessions, my office chair at home offers great back support and arm rests. And my computer screen is bigger. Here too, I can get the coffee and music, but I have to be extra careful about the distractions. Cute as they may be, I don't type well with the cat on my lap. Or keyboard. You cat people know what I mean.

And for me, the neighbor situation is better now than it was. This is similar to the problem I mentioned above about well-meaning friends stopping by the coffee shop table. It's worse at home, when they park themselves on your doorstep or, if they get past your defenses, fall onto your couch. For about a year we had a gal who, upon finding out that we worked at home, just couldn't pass up the chance to unload her woe upon us two or three times a week. The only way to deal with that was a polite, but firm rebuff. Hard to do in a rural area where nobody's a stranger.

Author Kevin J. Anderson gave up the keyboard and dictates most of his work while walking or hiking. This seems ideal, and a fine solution to some of the health problems writers (and other sedentary workers) face. I've dabbled with Dragon speaking software in the office, but have never tried straight dictation while involved in another activity. You can read moreabout Kevin's process here

So what about it, Fictioneers? Where do you write? What props do you need? How do you avoid the distractions? Please share a comment below.

After growing up on a Nebraska farm, Richard Prosch worked as a professional writer, artist, and teacher in Wyoming, South Carolina, and Missouri. His western crime fiction captures the fleeting history and lonely frontier stories of his youth where characters aren’t always what they seem, and the windburned landscapes are filled with swift, deadly danger. Read more at


  1. Interesting post, Richard. I like the idea of getting away from it all, renting a cottage on the edge of a Scottish loch and just writing. The reality is that what may be inspiring is not necessarily conducive to writing. I do in fact live overlooking a lake, yet my study is in a garrett. It is cluttered with all sorts of artefacts and gimmicks. I like them around as mental prompts. When I write historical fiction (medieval, I mean) I have a knight's helmet paperweight to fiddle with. I have a pile of hats on one side of my L-shaped desk, for different characters (it includes a pith helmet, a fez, various western hats...), a number of cacti on another part of the desk and a pencil jar with various pencils that I use for jotting notes in note-books, each exclusively for a particular book. So I have crime pencils, western pencils and historicals. When I'm writing a medical book I may fiddle with the microscope or the antique pestle and mortar that sometimes get swallowed up amid the piles of books that find their way onto the desk. In a corner of the room I have a number of hickory golf clubs, stuffed into a bookcase I have boxing gloves and on a table behind me there is a foxhole radio (we call them crystal set radios) that I made alone with a motor and an assortment of empty beer bottles and one special one that I am waiting to have when I get round to writing that book!

    All in all, it is comfortable and multi-purpose. Apart from all that I write wherever I am and wherever I have the opportunity.

  2. What a great question, Richard. Unlike you, I can't write in public. I'm one of those people whom every little stimulation interrupts. I don't listen to music. I don't answer the phone. I do my best to ignore the dogs, but I'm not very successful at that (especially since once insists on inhabiting my chair with me, no matter what I do to convince him leaping into my lap is not wise).

    I write either in my home office -- which looks like a tornado hit the place -- or upstairs in the bedroom, sitting on the bed. On good days, I can get into "the zone" in either place; on bad days, I can't untangle my thoughts anywhere. **sigh**

  3. Richard,

    I do my best mental plotting while I'm driving (me driving, not riding), and where I live to any place is a good, long drive so my plotting opportunities are frequent. I've tried voice recording, but it's never worked for me—I’m too disjointed in my thoughts. I jump around too much or back track too much to follow my own train of verbal thought. I have to create distractions so I can purposely tune them out or I focus on the noises in the silence (ticking clocks, chirping birds, traffic, etc.) When I'm in deep writing mode, I'll have a familiar movie playing where I can see it, but pay no attention to it. I gauge my rear-to-chair writing time by how far along the movie is when I finally come up for air. If I put music on while I write, it will be of a classical nature. I spend more time writing at my computer than I do handwriting, but I carry a steno book and pencil or fountain pen with me for the times I do hand write.

    When my basement flooded in late August 2013, I became a displaced writer in that I had to move from my writing hovel to an upstairs bedroom. I've been upstairs for the past twenty months while the remodeling process creeps by at a petty pace. *sigh* I had to box-up and store the bulk of my research resources (books, etc.) for lack of space upstairs. While I miss the atmosphere I'd created in the basement, and I'm longing to get my books out of storage, I'm not creatively hampered by location. Most any place is fine with me.

    Oh, and my writing area is *organized chaos*, and it could stand a good dusting and vacuuming. I also have many cat and dog lap-sitters that I work around. *grin* I can keep writing when I talking on the phone. lol

    I like this Louis L'Amour quote: "I could sit in the middle of Sunset Boulevard and write with my typewriter on my knees. Temperamental I am not."

    I'm certainly not that un-distractible, but close.

  4. I write a lot of scenes in an improv writing group that meets once a week. When I really need to work out a scene or get something finished, I go to the local cemetery. (Talk about no discractions). I then imput what I wrote longhand with Dragon and when finished start the editing. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

  5. I have a couple of writing nests around the house, easily identified by stacks of books, coffee cups and a laptop charger. Depending on the mood (and how many people are present), I camp out at the dining table, my music room or the patio. I'm planning an "office" upstairs but I'm still waiting for a slow day to move all my books and junk up there. Deadlines!

    Don't like to write around people. In fact, I get downright snarly if an unsuspecting family member approaches while I'm on a roll.