Every writer has their own routine and their own requirements to be able to sit down and write. If I’m at home, I like scented candles and I choose one that suits my mood and what I’m writing. I also like silence. If I listen to music, I end up writing the lyrics down instead of my story (does anyone else do this?). I tried listening to classical music but any kind of crescendo and I’m pulled right out of it. So, silence it is, then. Mostly. I live in the countryside so I can hear cows, sheep, horses and, of course, my dog.
My usual writing spot is my desk in my writing room. I don’t call it an office, because writing doesn’t feel like work – even though it does take lots of time, energy and effort. My desk is kept neat because I can only order my thoughts when my environment is tidy. My desk has the bare minimum – a diary, a notebook, candles and a desk tidy with bits and bobs like highlighter, pencils and sharpeners – and a print out of my current work in progress. I also have hand cream because my fingers and wrists get tired and the cream reminds me to massage my hands at the end of the day or whenever I take a break.
Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of routine and so although I can concentrate for very long periods of time, I also get bored easily. This means that sometimes I need a change of scenery. I love to work on trains. I always book a forward-facing seat with a table, and as soon as I sit down I get my computer out so that everyone can see I’m busy. Sometimes I’ll meet someone super interesting and I’ll chat instead – after all, you never know where a good idea might come from! But as a rule, I spend my train journeys writing.
I also like working in cafes where there’s a buzz. Where people are talking but you can’t distinguish the words; that’s an ideal spot because I don’t accidentally write their conversations down. I have written in cafes all over the world including Australia, Thailand, Spain, Italy and Cambodia. When you don’t understand the language, it’s even better – it’s so easy to zone out but you don’t feel alone. Writing can be lonely sometimes.
I also like to take writing breaks abroad – I find that sun lifts the spirits and motivates. Last year, I went to a writing retreat in France, just outside of Carcassonne. The sun and natural surroundings were stunning and I made this short video about why I chose that spot and what I liked about it. The information is out of date (The Book of Learning is now on the shelves and both Caramel Hearts and The Book of Shadows are finished, both due out this year) but I thought you might like to hear my thought processes when picking a spot to write.
I think environment affects us very much, and this is why setting is always an important feature in my books. If you’re writing and you get stuck, I find that movement and a change of scenery really help. Put the pen down or the computer away and take a walk – you can always bring a notebook with you, if you need. Walking stimulates the blood flow to your brain and also lifts your spirits. So it’s a win/win! Some of the best ideas come when you’re away from your desk, and I find I untangle the trickiest of plot issues or character flaws when I’m in motion. By the time I return to the spot where I’m writing, I’m all set to continue on.
I’d love to know more about your own writing spaces. Do you find your environment affects your writing? Where do you like to write and why?