Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Your Writing Environment

As I write this I'm on a writing retreat in the Suffolk countryside. A writer friend is house-sitting a smallholding in a little village, and asked me to join her so that we could share a few peaceful days to write without the usual distractions.

The pictures above show the village, and the house. I was awoken this morning by the sound of the cockerel crowing, and the day started with my friend feeding the chickens, goats and rabbits. It really is a rural idyll - no shops, no cars, no noise. The perfect writing environment.

Last night, to celebrate our writing achievements, we watched lots of pointless property programmes. One of them was an episode of Grand Designs in which a man was building a house in France for his family. He built it out of bales of straw, which was quite interesting, but what really piqued our interest was that the focal point of the house was his study, high up with a view across the French countryside, which he had designed carefully to give him the ideal environment for writing. He wanted to write a novel, and felt that with a study like that, he would be able to. He needed to create for himself the perfect writing environment.

The programme visited the family in their straw house seven years later. Had Mark written his novel? No. But he had written a book about buying property in France. Apparently it wasn't selling very well.

My friend and I agreed on something very fundamental when we were watching that programme. If you are going to enormous lengths to create your perfect writing environment in order to be able to write your book, then you're never going to be able to write.

In other words, if you have to look to a particular place or setting for inspiration, then you're doing something wrong. Your perfect writing environment needs to be anywhere you happen to be.

I have written in my car while waiting for my daughter to finish her riding lesson, in a ballet studio while waiting for another daughter to have her ballet lesson (every week), in a church classroom while my children are at mutual (also every week), in McDonald's, and in fact anywhere I happen to find myself with a laptop and a few minutes to kill. The perfect writing environment, for me, isn't just a six-hundred year old farmhouse, or my desk at home, but anywhere and everywhere I happen to have five minutes to kill, and my laptop.

Yes, it might be true that having a desk with all my reference books to hand, peace and quiet, and a lovely view, would be very nice. But I know that's not going to make the muse come galloping through the sky to me. If you need an environment conducive to writing to provide your inspiration, then you're probably never going to find it.


  1. I couldn't agree more. I love writing to music, but if it's not there, I'll get along just fine. Just give me something to write with/on, and I'm good.

  2. I definitely agree. To me, writing is an art form. You don't have to have the perfect scenario or writing environment to be able to craft a good novel. You just need yourself and a healthy dose of creativity. Thanks for the great reminder!



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