Doing It In Public

In On Writing, Stephen King advises against writing in public places such as library carrels or coffee shops. He wrote Carrie in the laundry room of their house, so the story goes.

When I sit at my desk, my daughters undertake a highly-cooperative and unusually focused game called Distraction. The game consists of engaging in a prolonged series of escalating attempts to make Mom stop writing. Typical strategies include:

  • slipping emotionally mercenary notes and/or drawings under the door detailing the trauma their hour of neglect is taking on their young lives, expressing their undying devotion, and asking if I’m almost done
  • tapping on the door in a light but rhythmic pattern and asking if I’m almost done
  • knocking on the door and asking if I’m almost done
  • pounding on the door and asking if I’m almost done
  • fiddling with the door handle and asking if I’m almost done
  • making requests for food, water, candy, screentime, a particular toy, a sweater, bandaids,the answer to the Riddle of the Sphinx, and any of a variety of power-tools they think I might consider alarming, and asking if I’m almost done
  • giggling attempts to pick the lock (to either lock or unlock the door, depending on its current state)
  • bombarding the door with Lego spacecraft
  • wandering in and asking if I’m almost done

Stephen King’s kids must have had more self-discipline than mine.

So, unless my kids are out of the house, or my hubby is standing sentry, I don’t always write at home.

I’ve written in libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies, bars, parks, airports, hospitals, and shopping malls. Sometimes, if I’m in a rut, I seek out a new environment for writing, just to mix things up.

When I write in public, I tend to do so in spates. I’ll pick one place and go there on the same days every week for several months.

I have to confess, I like to see the responses people have when I arrive at the same time and place repeatedly to write.

Some people get uncomfortable. As if I’m doing something in public that clearly should be done privately.

Some people adopt a sort of reverence. They sneak up to refill my coffee cup with murmured apologies, and creep away as silently as ninjas. Very rarely does anyone ask what I’m writing.

It occurred to me today that it might be fun to review some of these locations for their write-ability. The combination of atmosphere, service, people-watching, and lack of distraction that makes a place a good or bad place to engage in writing.

I’m not currently in the habit of writing in public, but I feel a spate coming on.

I’ll keep you posted.


Doing It In Public

One thought on “Doing It In Public

  1. I love to write in public, but I also write quite a bit at home. The Distraction game, though, is tough. Even with a 16 year old, it’s a problem. Sometimes she comes into my office and just sits. After 20 minutes of silence (I’m typing), she’ll sigh and say, “Well I guess no one’s interested in talking to me.” I think King has less of this because he’s male. Maybe that’s just my family, but my kid will walk past my husband to get to me to ask a mundane question. Drives me crazy.


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