It’s nice to have a writing routine.
I try to write at 3:00 most afternoons, and I usually write in the same place: at my desk, which carves out a little study area for me in the corner of the living room. At 3:00, the house is generally quiet, and my thoughts have been churning energetically, and I usually have an idea forming of what I want to say and how I want to say it. Most days, I’m excited to sit at the keyboard and watch things take shape.
Routine is good. But even good things, done over and over, become stale. Last week I sat at my desk and had an overwhelming feeling of been here; done this: BORING.
And that day, I found this advice in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones:
Write in different places—for example, in a laundromat, and pick up the rhythm of the washing machines. Write at bus stops, in cafes. Write what is going on around you.
I thought I’d give it a shot. In fact, I thought I’d give it five shots. I set myself to write in these places:
- Outside, on the patio, in the cool of the morning.
- At a Starbucks coffee shop that is housed inside my supermarket, Kroger.
- At a Panera bakery and café.
- At my wonderful local library.
- And then, just for something fun and different, I thought I’d see what it was like to write at the art museum here in town.
So, over the course of a Wednesday and Thursday, I took my laptop and spent at least 45 minutes, writing, in each of those places.
Here’s what I discovered.
- Anyplace where people congregate is a great place for inspiration. I saw someone’s retirement party, and I saw elementary teachers trying to slow down their fast-disappearing summer break. I saw employees who clearly liked their jobs, and I saw people coming into one of my places who looked exhausted, worried, or angry. I saw children and teens and young folk; I saw middle agers and senior citizens. I saw all kinds of shades of skin and I heard accents and ways of slinging speech that I want to try to capture on paper.
- Every place I went jogged memories. I thought about the first time I had a Reese’s cup cookie at a Starbucks; I thought about a young writers’ group my son attended for a year or so at a Panera. I thought about how different places honor their retirees differently, and I thought about straws and their effect on the environment, and the wonder of having summers off when I was a young teacher. I remembered a humiliating tumble I took in another art museum. Each different place churned up different memories and different trains of thoughts. I thought about the places themselves and the ways they serve our community.
- Going with another person is dicey. I took my son, James, to the coffee shops with me. He promised, solemnly, not to say ONE WORD while I was typing. But he couldn’t stand it; something would inspire a thought, or a person would walk by who reminded him of something, and he’d say, “I just have to say this one thing…” And of course I would stop and listen. I concentrated better in the places I flew solo, although sometimes James gave me a nice unexpected perspective.
- Some places offer distraction. Surprisingly, the library was the hardest place for me to work. It offered up a wonderful array for people-watching, but it also offered up all those books. I kept itching to stop writing and go browsing. The art museum, which I threw onto the list as a fun and funky fifth alternative, turned out to be a great place to write.
- The new places freshened my point of view, and threw new colors, sounds, and characters at me.
So. I write this at my usual spot, at a time when the boyos have gone out and the house is quiet. I like this spot, and of course I will be tapping away here almost every day.
But I’m thinking that, every other week, I might go someplace unexpected and write, just for an hour or so. I’ll go back to the art museum, for sure. I might go to the mall. I just joined a gym, and I wonder what it would be like to do my morning workout, and then drag a chair to the corner and sit for 30 minutes, writing what I see. I think about going to the bus station or a college lobby, or to city hall.
Changing it up sweeps the cobwebs for me, and it knocks loose memories that were stuck in high, dark places. I come back to my cozy, safe desk, with new images, new sounds, new thoughts, tumbling in the mill of my mind.
Where do you write? And where might you go to write if you wanted to change things up?
Happy blogging, my friends!
Here’s a link to the blog post that resulted from this adventure. If you change it up, be sure to share your results, too…