A place for writing


I don’t know how many of you have a commercial writing job for living. I have. And my Mac working station is a pleasure to use for writing. I have a nice, big screen, the computer is absolutely silent, my Das Keyboard is a joy to bang on.

But I cannot write my short stories at this system. Every time I try to start, I still feel hanged to my everyday job. The environment is the same. When my hands go over the keyboard, I enter the Everyday Job mode, and start thinking to my Everyday Job.

How do you do to stay away of this pernicious attitude? Do you change desktop image, computer, room, home, city, country, when it is time to write? I write a lot when at a desert, public park in a mountain resort not too far from here. I can write a lot at restaurant tables. But have problems while at home.

Time for an analyst?


Like you, I write everywhere. In notepads on trains, on laptops in cafes. I’ve reviewed passages on an iPhone whilst standing in a queue at the bank and I’ve scribbled notes on a BlackBerry whilst waiting for Mrs Pigfender to try on clothes at the mall.

One thing I do to switch between modes is to take the ‘man-who-wears-different-hats’ metaphor literally. I have a writing hat. In fact, I have two of them. I have a nice baseball cap from a ski resort that I normally wear while writing, and a very very nice cowboy hat that I bought in Fort Worth years ago that I use when I really need the help.

There is no tangible reason I can see why it should work, but in the same way that putting on a uniform (even a shirt and tie) can put a person in ‘work’ mode, and that ‘dress-down-Friday’ can change the atmosphere in an office, a simple change to your environment (and I recommend the hat thing) may be all you need.

You mention changing desktop image. One other thing I intend to do next time I get a new computer is to set up two different user accounts: one for workwork and one specifically for personal writing. Like the hat, I suspect this is going to be one small change that can make a material psychological difference, and seems worth a try if you are finding it takes you a little time to wind up.

For me it’s a time-shift. I write for a living, and I also edit a magazine (and 17 years ago I edited books). Almost all of it done from the same chair, in the same corner of the same living room, and with a variety of computers.

I rise at 5, and by 5:20 the coffee’s done and I write, with a break for breakfast and to say H’lo to the wife before she leaves for work, until around 10. Then I take a quick walk, and when I come back I’m in editor mode, and that’s all I do the rest of the day: not a thought to my own writing.

Same hat, same computer; just a different focus.

I will say, though, that I can never think of what to write, or what the shape of a piece of writing might ultimately become, while sitting at a computer. For me it’s still a pen-and-paper kind of thing–the cheap little Moleskine notebooks with the brown covers, a stack of index cards kept near the bed, in the truck, in coat pockets, beside the toilet to capture quick ideas that then get reformed and rewritten and rethought and expanded while sitting, mornings, at the computer.

When Scrivener’s iOS version arrives, I’ll finally break down and buy an iPad, with the idea it might be a more efficient way of capturing ideas and brainstorming. Because with it I won’t be restricted to sitting in that Chair, staring at that Screen, where I primarily repair what others, and myself, have created.

Same problem, same solution, although I do wear a favorite (necessary, perhaps) hat when I’m up in the hills taking photographs.