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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Does Location Affect Your Writing?

As writers we're always told that location matters in a scene. We can't expect to write a book without giving the reader some indication of where the story takes place.

But what about our own location? Do we need to feel content with our surroundings before we write our next masterpiece?

I'm lucky enough to live by the coast where the air is always fresh. Oxygen is vital for the creative brain so I needn't worry about getting enough of that. But I'm also conscious of the major town I live next to and its statistics prove it's one of the roughest places to live in the UK. Because of this I rarely frequent the area unless I absolutely have to; not only because of the high crime rate but because it leaves me feeling so utterly depressed. The last time I visited the town (sometime in the last two years) I joked that I wouldn't return, not even if someone paid me!

Writers all have their personal routines and favourite spots to write. And what works well for some writers may not work for others. I know when I put pen to paper my surroundings have to be quiet with as few distractions as possible. But I know other writers thrive with background noise and people around them. The perfect location for them to write might be in a coffee shop or library.

I was lucky enough to visit New York last month. I could definitely see how this vibrant city attracts writers and all sorts of other artists to live there because of its fast and upbeat pace. Out of the many places I've visited in the entire world, New York definitely buzzed the most. The energy of the area was constant; it did not falter once. And although it's a major city, my creative mind was still fresh. I felt more awake and alert than I have done in a long time.

But when I returned my energy levels sapped back down to their usual level and it was then I gave this blog subject some serious thought. Writers are like sponges: we soak up our environment more than most folk. And surely it's not so crazy to think this might affect our writing.

So what do you think? Does your location affect your writing?


  1. Location can have a major affect on writing. High energy areas make me want to do a scene full of tension or excitement. While my regular writing area at home has some kind of music going on in the background (soft, new age, or something a bit more intense) helps me with difficult areas of a story. Getting out and exploring will also affect my writing. A new place with interesting objects or experiences fires my imagination that I take it all back to my computer and unleash it there.

  2. A recent blog on the subject

  3. Hi Allan, thanks for sharing your own experiences with us. I can see why certain places affect your writing like they do.

  4. Interestingly enough I was listening the other day to a Radio program by a freelancer who was broadcasting from the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote most of the early Harry Potter MS. Apparently the background sound of such places as cafes, with its absence of peaks and troughs, is conducive to creativity.

    Not for me, I fear. I have my little nest (my wife calls it my scrapyard) of organized chaos and liberal dust. I have an unspectacular view from the window but that's okay, because my characters don't live out there.

    Memory, I think, is the great craftsman. It smooths, it brings a gloss. Take what you see and allow for fermentation. A year later it will seem more real, and it will come to you without your bidding..

  5. Hi Frederick,

    Thanks for commenting. I usually need a lot of peace and quiet too. I have tried the odd cafe here and there but I tend to work the best in absolute silence. Some writers can write in most places but I prefer a quiet place.

  6. Hello again LK:

    I've found locations that, in and of themselves, provide me with a certain level of comfort lend themselves to an increased ability to "churn out" written matter.

    At home, since my wife does not work, solitude is rare. Even if I seclude myself in another room, a certain amount of distraction remains simply because she is present in the home.

    However, airport lobbies, hospital lobbies, coffee shops and bars, all cause me to feel relaxed and comfortable. As a result, with a tablet of paper and a pen, I'm able to write voraciously in all of those environments. On the surface it may seem to be illogical given the steady din of noise in such public places. However, since my teenage years, those types of environments have always soothed me, in spite of the public presence.

    Thank you for this article. Again, it has provided food for thought.


  7. Hi William,

    I think it's amazing how many writers feel this way about public places. Maybe it's because writing is such a solitary business we crave the company of others. As long as we're surrounded by people it doesn't matter if we know them or not. Thanks for your thoughts.