“I've written in every imaginable location; a repurposed closet, the kitchen table, the bleachers while my kids had basketball practice, the front seat of the car when they were at soccer. In airports. On trains. In the break room when I was supposed to be wolfing down dinner. In the back of classrooms when I was supposed to be paying attention.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Born Oct. 23, 1961.
That is a big chunk of a quotation, but it’s important.
Some writers swear by having a routine. They develop complex rituals. Sometimes it involves certain equipment. Perhaps certain objects. Certain locations, or moods.
And that is certainly a valid way to create a comfortable and familiar space. That’s great for cultivating and developing ideas, sure.
But to me, when it comes to the actual writing. The hacking out of the actual words. The part that comes after you’ve decided what to say, and all that’s left is typing it up?
You need to start doing that EVERYWHERE. Practice it. Force it. Do it where it’s loud, and uncomfortable, and inconvenient.
Bring an iPad everywhere like I do. Use your smartphone sometimes. Keep notebooks stashed in you car and bust it out to churn some words out when you’re out and about.
Because it ELIMINATES this bullshit, warm-up, get-ready process that we don’t really need. It helps you practice going from dead cold to flaming hot, in an instant, whenever you want to.
And guess what?
Even if you HAVEN’T fully thought out what you’re writing yet, it doesn’t matter. Making the words flow from the fingers to the page or the screen can unclog your brain when stuck.
But not if it takes you 30 minutes to get yourself grinding and can only do it in you special, magical writing retreat.
So do it. You should already be writing every day anyway. Add to that discipline a simple rule that you must do SOME of that writing in an environment that is not conducive to it. Hell, it can even be HOSTILE to it.
I do a lot of my writing in booming barrooms. I’m writing this right now from the cramped economy seat on a transatlantic flight, and the guy in front of me is fully reclined.
Hell, if I’m being perfectly honest, I have trouble getting going with work if I am in a quiet, peaceful place. I need sound. I need chaos. I need to be surrounded by strangers and scenery and that STIMULATES the part of my brain that likes to say things that are on my mind.
It’s the opposite of zen. It is sometimes frantic, and furious, and explosive. It feels like I’m stealing it somehow. A heist of words and ideas, taken from a place they shouldn’t be found.
And it makes me better. It makes me more prolific. It helps me write in a way that surprises myself, and if I’m surprised, the reader is, too.
It makes the work come to life. Because it has to fight its way out to exist when you birth it out in the field.
And listen, start slow. Write at the park, or in a cafe during off-peak hours. Work your way up to real challenges like a mall at holiday season, or a bar with a house DJ bumping beats while patrons dance.
But challenge is the point. Challenge yourself to master your craft so you can do it anywhere at any time, no matter what the circumstances.
And you’ll be better for it.