The Writing Spot

writing spotAthletes have their pre-game rituals. Performers have their pre-show regime. Writers have their spot.

The writing spot provides focus and inspiration. It is the writer’s retreat from the world where words move from the imagination to the page.

I think I can say with confidence that every writer has the spot even if it exist only in their mind, because location or money prohibit the imaginative spot from existing. Other writers may be able to create anywhere, from a coffee shop to a park bench. Some may need absolute silence to communicate with their thoughts, while others write best immersed in the clatter of everyday life.

A sensory experience

The writing spot is so much more than just a location. A writing spot is a multi-sensory experience and even a lifestyle for some.

Victor Hugo locked away his clothes to prevent himself from leaving his apartment while he wrote The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Flannery O’Connor would apparently munch on apples in the tub while thinking over plots. William Faulkner, as many know, drank whiskey endlessly while he wrote.

Whether it’s food, beverage, location, clothing, or superstitions about ink or cigarettes — writer’s create a world for themselves as they create for their readers.

For me the writing spot is imagined. Ideally I would have a cabin in the woods near a body of water with lots of blankets, a wood-burning fireplace, cozy furniture, and an oversized wood table.  Since I am still and forever in school (I got into a PhD program!) I do my best to create the ideal spot no matter where I live.

There are three-to-five necessary components to create the illusion of my ideal writing spot:

  1. A window — seeing nature and life outside is so important. Trees are the ideal landscape.
  2. Hot beverage — usually coffee or tea (and endless glasses of water). There is something comforting about warm beverages that makes me feel safe to make myself vulnerable through writing.
  3. A warm and cozy sweater or sweatshirt (at the moment of writing this I’m wearing a red and black oversized knit sweater)
  4. Either a large table or an oversized chair in which I can sit cross-legged — Large
  5. A candle — flames are meditative and empowering

Writing spots of the published

writing spot
The typewriter on which Hemingway wrote for a few hours each day in Havana, Cuba while standing.

The initial inspiration for this post was a photo from my parents’ recent vacation. My father showed me a photo of the typewriter where Ernest Hemingway stood and typed Old Man and the Sea.

Apparently Hemingway would wake up each morning in Havana, Cuba, write for a few hours and then proceed to drink the rest of the day at a bar in the city.

“A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board

writing spot
A statue of Hemingway in the Havana, Cuba bar Floridita.

chest-high opposite him,” George Plimpton wrote from an interview with Hemingway for the Paris Review.

Once the day’s writing was complete, Hemingway spent the afternoons and evenings at the Floridita Bar in Havana.

Other writers are known to have written their works while lying down.

Truman Capote called himself a “horizontal author.” Edith Wharton wrote in bed to escape the confines of proper women’s clothing, primarily the corset.

James Joyce also wrote in bed. He laid on his stomach on his bed using crayons. Joyce’s writing spot was out of necessity given is poor eyesight, according to the Brain Pickings blog.

The Brain Pickings post on Celia Blue Johnson’s book “Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors” provide more insight into the writing spots of famous writers.

If you’re interested in the writing spots of contemporary authors, check out the New York Times Magazine article “The Writer’s Room.” There are photos!

Writing on a dream

Where do you write? Do you have a specific regime you have to follow?

If you could write anywhere in the world where would it be?

Do you have a dream writing spot you’ve created in your head?

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