The Setting of a Writer

// Setting: noun. the place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place. //

As writers, we sometimes discuss the setting in our writing: the forest where the lost traveler finds himself at night, the tavern where the princess in disguise strikes a deal for her father, the garden where the love interest finally confesses his burning passion.  But what about the setting of our writing: where it happens, what it looks like, how it feels, what we wear?

Today, I wrote for a short while at my local Panera Bread (excellent choice for writing, if you ask me).  Tonight as I scrolled my twitter feed (follow me, @3lizabeth_A) something caught my eye: an author I follow (Ally Carter) posted that SHE had been writing at HER Panera Bread today as well.  And.  Wow.  For a shining moment, I saw myself as an author.  Not just a writer, like, someone-who-writes-for-fun, but an Author, someone who publishes books.  I had been working on a novel at a Panera Bread, while, at the same time, one of my favorite authors had been working on her novel at another Panera Bread somewhere else in the world.  It was a magical feeling.

So.  On the topic of writing and setting and all that jazz.

I wrote my first novel, The Sound of Color, almost entirely in my bedroom.  Sixteen-year-old Beth was a little terrified of the fact that she was writing a novel, so she kept it a secret for a while – a private, behind-closed-doors thing, only shared with a select few.  I wrote it in an armchair from my grandparents, with slippers on my feet and silence in the room.  It was a late night love affair, requiring only a Lord of the Rings soundtrack and a wild imagination.

But THEN, the 2015 NaNoWriMo struck and everything changed.  A busy Senior in Highschool, if I was going to write 50,000 words in a month, I was going to have to get creative with where I wrote.  So I brought my laptop to school and wrote between classes.  I’d write during carrides and lunch breaks, letting my novel-writing bleed into all the other areas of my life.  It was so freeing to write anywhere and everywhere.

And then I moved off to college.  And to be honest, I’ve struggled to find a time and place that feels right for writing when I’m away from home.  But I am teaching myself to let writing bleed into my “adult life” as well.  I’m teaching myself to look for Writing Spots.

So now?  Now, writing happens at Panera Bread in the half hour before meeting a friend for lunch.  It happens late at night with candles lit because the power has gone out, and I’m hoping my laptop battery lasts until I finish the chapter.  It happens in a childhood bedroom while I wait for my best friend to get out of the shower after I’ve dyed her hair.  It happens at the table after dinner, dishwasher humming in the background, family members talking in the other room.  It happens in a quirky coffee shop on campus, or in a busy college library.

One of the things that I’ve learned about myself in the past year is that I tend to write better when I treat is as something professional, or official.

Power to you, writers, if you can write in sweats and sweaters, laying in bed, with the covers pulled up to your chin.  The writing you do is still valid and still hard work and still important.  But I’ve found that I write the best if I take five minutes to put on real shoes, do my hair, and pretend like I’m going to a meeting.  If I try to write when I’m in bed or in my room, it’s too easy to sneak over to YouTube or Facebook or Twitter.  But if I dress like I’m off to a meeting, and I take my laptop to a table or desk, then it feels like I’m there to get something done.  And so the writing gets done much easier.

So, I’m curious: what do you all wear to write?  Where do you write the best?  I’m fascinated by how different settings can effect my writing so much, and I’m curious if you all experience the same thing.  Let’s chat in the comments.

// ps, this post is partially inspired by my friend Vivian’s recent post about writing and sweaters and books.  she’s great, go check her out. //

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