#atozchallenge E is for Environment (The Writer’s Habitat)

If this were a Field Guide to successful writers, I would now go on to discuss the typical habitat you would find the species in. So why not?

Because it’s not that easy (is anything?). There’s no such thing as a typical writer, for a start, and several have made successful writing careers writing during their daily train commute, or from a basement cupboard with poor lighting.

But still – we’re aiming for perfectionism here, the ultimate environment to offer support, tools, and comfort for any productive writer.

The Reality

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As soon as I write this I know there will be many arguments. Several authors like to have playlists of music running while they write. Several write and complete entire novels while sitting in cafés or parks, not distracted, perhaps even inspired by noises or people around them. Others write in busy offices. We are lucky that technology allows us access – with a writing kit – to many places that previous generations of writers could never contemplate.

  • In her small ebook, ‘2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love’, Rachel Aaron admits to spending 6 hours a day in a café, writing 10,000 words each time.
  • French author Nathalie Sarraute chose to write in a neighborhood café at the same time and same table every morning. She said: “It is a neutral place and no one disturbs me – there is no telephone.”

    JK Rowling wrote in this cosy Edinburgh cafe called The Elephant House
    JK Rowling wrote in this cosy Edinburgh cafe called The Elephant House
  • JK Rowling thinks similarly – “It’s no secret that the best place to write, in my opinion, is in a café. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writer’s block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think. The best writing café is crowded enough to where you blend in, but not too crowded that you have to share a table with someone else”. Interviewed by Heather Riccio, HILLARY Magazine.
  • On the other hand, Men with Pens said this: “What, exactly, about a coffee shop screams productive environment? People are moving in and out constantly. There are usually many others occupying seats and tables. During busy times, you might not even be able to find a seat”. —MenWithPens
  • Several writers, like Margaret Drabble, prefer to write in a hotel room. Jack Kerouac advises the same. Maya Angelou books herself into a hotel to write.
  • Many famous writers got themselves a little shack to write in. The gallery of images above show you some of Roald Dahl’s ‘The Gipsy House’, Mark Twain’s writing hut, George Bernard Shaw’s dubbed ‘London’ (so that his staff could be truthful when they told people he’d: “Gone to London” It was also notable because it sat on a dias, and could be rotated to follow the sun. Dylan Thomas’ hut, Henry David Thoreau’s cabin, Virginia Woolf’s writing cabin (too cold to use in the winter), and Michael Pollan’s writing hut.
  • Others write in slightly interesting ways – Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up, In Cold Blood novelist Truman Capote described himself as a “horizontal author” and wrote lying down.
  • We won’t get into the few writers who boast they can write anywhere, versus the few who presumably can’t, because they write in the nude (French novelist Victor Hugo wrote both Les Misérables and The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame naked, and rumours suggest Ernest Hemingway stood up – nude, and Agatha Christie wrote in the bathtub).

But, every writer deserves their own office or place of work, a place where our stuff can be permanently laid out, ready at any time, and where we are sheltered from distractions from the outside world.

The subject of our writing spots, our places to write, is a popular one. Many major writing magazines feature a page each edition spotlighting a writer’s special writing place.

The Writer’s Core Habit Pack for Setting up a Successful Writing Place

This graphic shows you some of the features to contemplate if building yourself a great writing spot, including a home office / area, and the kit needed to support your writing habits. Additionally, an on-the-go writing kit for those café or library excursions.

Important Tips:

  1. Be flexible. One perfect place to write a novel may not be the perfect place for the next one.
  2. Place to WriteDon’t wait around for the perfect place, even if you have an office re-design scheduled beginning next month. Writer’s write – and always find the place and time to do it within. Kitchen tables, parks, lunch breaks spent in the office broom cupboard – no matter how imperfect the spot, write.
  3. Set up rules of engagement to protect your writing place and writing flow –
    • for instance, setup rules for interruptions from kids, family members or doorstep salesmen – when can they interrupt you? When the phone rings and it’s for you? When the house is burning down, and only then? Or a middle ground somewhere?
    • also set up signs communicating that you should not be interrupted – the door is shut, or hang a swing-sign up somewhere, raise a flag, whatever…
  4. When your writing place fails you (or you fail your writing place), GET OUT. Go for a walk, sit out in the park,take your writing to a local cafe, the library or a bookshop.

Further Reading:

Famous Writers and their writing places:

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love


All icons used in the graphic are free downloads, and have been used personally.

  • Library icons by Robin Weatherall
  • Lovely website icons and IsoIcons_Workspace by Artdesigner.lv or swf@inbox.lv
  • Edited Icon Set, The Dailies icon set, Global Warming Advices 2 set
  • Bookinds icon set, Style-Guide icons, Winter Writers icons by WinePress of Words
  • Email me icons by mayosoft
  • Drop Box Vol2 by Plexform (deviantart)
  • Journal Icons by WickedDesktop (deviantart)
  • Typewriter icon, Printer icon by mdgraphs
  • Candy Packs by Sketched Dreams (deviantart)
  • Icons Unleashed Vol1 by PCUnleashed

AtoZ2013 _thumb

A-to-Z-Core-Habits3-_thumb.jpgThis blog post participated in April 2013’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, along with many other blogs on subjects as diverse as writing, foodie blogs or mummy blogs.

This blog post is part of a themed series or pack on Writer’s Core Habits. I acronym this as WCH or WCHP © . Do a search for these tags, and you will find more in the series.

No affiliate links are used in these posts.

8 thoughts on “#atozchallenge E is for Environment (The Writer’s Habitat)

    1. Oh, that’s funny. Whenever I try writing in public – trains, swimming pools – I’m always paranoid people around me are staring. I once caught somebody reading over my shoulder but truly, she was the only one who ever bothered, the rest are just figments of paranoia or hope.

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