10 Places to Write Outside Your Office

Plenty of writers get burned out, and they don't know why. All they know is they simply can't bear to get near their computer, or go into their office, and they only get near their sacred desk to check Facebook or clean between the laptop keys. They've fallen out of love with their writing space. Or they're ticked off at it, and they don't know why. All they know is they can't CREATE MASTERPIECES there...not right now...and probably not in the next week.

It's time to have an affair with another writing space.

Here are 10 places for writers to sneak off to, try out, and hopefully reignite their love for their work in progress:

1. Coffee Shop

If Starbucks is what you have, go for it. Preferably within walking distance (get the blood pumping to jump quicker into your writing process). Whether it's a chain or an indie, I can't stress enough the importance of establishing a good relationship with your local coffee shop. I used to go to a great indie downtown at 8:30 am on a Saturday, order 2 lattes and a bagel up front, and sit for a couple of hours at a table next to the window that was always open at that time. Then I would walk across the street to this great used bookstore to browse and buy. It became my literary morning. If you're going to frequent a coffee shop: don't be a jerk, tip well, be friendly and gracious, use headphones if necessary, and thank them when you leave. You've used valuable high-traffic real estate for a low-cost coffee and/or snack...make sure they know you are grateful for the space.

2. Starbucks on the other side of town

SCARY. I know. But break out of the comfort zone of your own neighborhood and try a new layout. Who knows? Their frappes could be more magical or something. Some famous author (who? I don't remember, and I'm too lazy to Google this right now) said it's important to finish your novel--the last scene or chapter--in an unfamiliar place so that it brings the work to a whole different level. Upping the ante on yourself, demanding more alertness and adaptation will echo in the pages (hopefully).

10 Places to Write #3: Cemeteries
10 Places to Write #3: Cemeteries

3. Cemetery

I"m actually going to write another post dedicated solely to this location very soon, but the rundown is this: go to a cemetery (be mindful of trespassing on private property and be respectful of funeral processions), bring along a notebook and a pen, and explore a little. Look at names. Look at dates. Find a bench or a place to rest (but NOT PERMANENTLY). Let the quiet meditative nature of it all inspire you.

4. City garden or park

Unless you HATE NATURE, hanging out in a garden or park is aesthetically pleasing and aurally stimulating--especially if there are bird sanctuaries or bodies of water nearby. Sometimes, people might be softly playing guitars, singing, guiding a yoga or Tai Chi class, or leading a nature walk. Notice how people slow down in this environment. Let that affect your sentences. This is a great space for going over your established work and seeing if it flows well, if it hits a natural rhythm. Edit as needed. Put words together that don't make sense, write incomplete sentences or whole-page paragraphs. Just let everything unfold.

10 Places to Write #4: City Garden or Park
10 Places to Write #4: City Garden or Park

5. Library

For the cost of a library card (free), you can surround yourself with the greatest authors of all time, sit between stacks, grab tomes for quick inspiration, copy the masters, hoard a huge table and lay out your manuscript, and bonus: they'll enforce the quiet time! DOWNSIDE: Many libraries have shorter hours in the winters, so you may not get to use a space like this after 5 or 6pm. Be wary of weekday mornings, too, when there might be a rambunctious Toddler Time happening.

6. College campus

Still living in the same town where you graduated from college? So am I! It doesn't mean that we're, like, total losers or anything. Harness your alumni powers for good. After you get a sweet deal on that campus gym membership, realize you can still hop around campus and no one is really going to say anything about it. Just act like one of those "non-traditional" students. Use the college library to snag a writing table or carrel, find your old isolated study spot outside the chem lab, or there may even be a temporarily abandoned lecture hall where you can read aloud from your work.

10 Places to Write: College Campus
10 Places to Write: College Campus

7. Hotel room

Beds you can jump on. Plush bathrobes. Wifi. Room service. And that cute little Do Not Disturb sign you can hang on your door and later steal for your house. TREAT YO SELF.

8. Public bus or train

This seems to work for a lot of commuters, although personally, I get motion sickness. But if you're going to be stuck on a bus or a train for an hour to and an hour from work, that's a LOT of writing time to log and it will add up quickly. If you can't focus enough to get creative and generate new work, use this time to edit what you can, or catch up on your reading (which is important for any writer, obvs). Ride the subway from one end to the other, don't give a damn if you miss your stop. Whatever it takes.

10 Places to Write: An Open Field
10 Places to Write: An Open Field

9. An open field

This could either go very "Sound of Music" for you, or...not. Bring a blanket so you don't have lots of ants and other tiny cute things crawling around on your pages and which you ultimately have to flick off. Lay down, flip over, look at clouds, daydream, don't bring an iPod or your phone. Embrace the wide open space, and maybe you'll notice your novel starts to resemble more of a prose poem with generous margins.

10. A tree

Um, yeah, don't bring your laptop or iPad on this excursion, either. When was the last time you climbed a tree, or found a fallen tree, and just scrambled up there and sat down, swinging your legs and getting all cozy-like and thinking, I wish I could just live here forever? Five bucks says you have not done anything like this since you were 10 years old. (Or maybe the last time you did LSD, whatever.)

Tap into your inner child and go climb a tree. You may not be able to sit comfortably for very long, but the physical exertion will release energy and oxygen, giving you a much needed mental boost, and you'll gain an alternate view. Tree house? Even better. Invite me over.

Honorable mentions:

  • Your bed or someone else's
  • The bathtub

More on these two in another post.

Places that kind of suck for writing:

1. The beach

Sand and wind. As Michael Kors would say on Project Runway, "There's just way too much happening here, it hurts."

2. Sidewalk stoop

Nothing kills inspiration faster than watching a passerby hock a big one a foot away fromyou, or hearing an angry woman screaming into her cell phone about her dry cleaning. Although it can be fun to pick up snippets of conversation (or get some spare change), leave the stoop and find a more productive area.

3. Coffee shop

Yes, coffee shops have their advantages, but they have MAJOR drawbacks. Seat lottery, weak coffee, too-loud atonal music, random sewing circles, the guy who has to conduct his relationship Skype sessions next to you. It's hit or miss sometimes.

10 Places to Write: This one sucks actually
10 Places to Write: This one sucks actually

4. A bar

I used to do this--ALL THE TIME. Between the hours of 5 and 7 I would pop into my little dive bar, order alternating PBRs or whiskys and ginger ales, and write for a couple of hours. This was great for a while, until I realized that in a bar, you're going to have a) regulars who insist on talking to you whether you appear busy or not, b) the oft-tiring pick up line "So you're a writer, why don't I buy you a drink and you can tell me all the amazing things you write about" and/or c) a hole in your wallet. You will have to be a little more defensive, guard your space, and tip your bartender very, very well.