The Question of Where

I rarely think about where I write. The question is usually when, or how, or if I will—”where” is an afterthought.

I Write Here!

When I consider “where”, I find it’s a loaded word. “Where” denotes locations tangible and intangible. Is it my plastic Ikea desk or the solitary confines of my mind? Even if we limit “where” to the physical world, we’re still talking a broad range of answers, from a little piece of college ruled paper to the third planet from the Sun.

So, I’ll say I write on the planet Earth, usually North America, specifically the United States. I write from my couch, at my kitchen table, on my bed, the tiny table in our cluttered guest room/office, in coffee shops, at a rented desk in a co-working space.

I write in spiral bound notebooks, legal pads and journals. I only write on my laptop at the second or third draft. I realize this is uncommon for my generation. Most twenty-something’s write from first to last on a computer. It makes sense. We’ve been operating computers for the bulk of our lives. It’s only natural we should feel more comfortable with keypads and screens than pens and paper. I’m no exception.

I don’t write letters. I tweet, I post, I text, I blog. But when I write a story, I do it first on paper and always with a pen. I’ve tried writing the other way, laptop first. The results were disastrous. Writing longhand can be messy and sometimes wasteful, it’s true. Still, I write best when I’m forming the words under my fingers,  scratching out the story, committing my ideas to ink where they are safe, if not from my inner critic, at least from the backspace key.

I write in a space I create for myself. My headspace, or, to borrow from Professor Butler*, the place where I dream. It’s my only consistent writing location, and it’s not always easy to find.

Not because my writing environment must be quiet (simply not distracting), or because I have to be alone (I like to be around people), and not because I have a special desk or a certain kind of chair. I don’t need anything like that.  What I need, and what is so hard to achieve, is a focused, open mind; my interior monologue dialed down, the story front and center, the character’s voices filling my thoughts. 

It’s a bit like falling asleep. Some people need complete darkness, total silence, a Breath Right® strip. Some people can sleep in the middle of a busy train station. I’m the latter. In sleep, as in writing, it doesn’t matter where I am. If I can find my own interior peace and quiet, the dreams will come.

Though it may be hard to pin-point, the question of “where” doesn’t worry me. Troubling questions are “Can I?” “Will I?” “When will I?” “How will I?” These are pervading questions; nagging, pushing, pulling, paralyzing. These are questions for another post.

Robert Olen Butler
From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction
ISBN: 0802117953
  1. #1 by priceswrite on May 24, 2012 - 6:28 pm

    Okay, first, I LOVE your doodling. You are so multi-talented! This post made me realize not only how much I enjoy your writing, but also how much I enjoy the way you think. And you’re not the only writer I’ve spoken with lately who prefers longhand. I can’t even begin to imagine doing that, partly because Final Draft formats for me which makes writing scripts easier. But when I take notes at a meeting, I love the way words and doodles magically appear as I move my pen across the paper. Perhaps I’ll have to drag down a notepad . . .

  2. #2 by wordimprovisor177 on May 25, 2012 - 9:50 am

    LOL! I have similar notebooks, too! Only they’re from business meetings with doodles, phrases and all kinds of notes, none of which pertain to the actual agenda being discussed!

    That common quirk aside, I love this post. I know several writers who must have an outline, must know where the story is going and how it will end, must control every word and comma. For me that’s a third, fourth or in some cases fifteenth draft! Thank God I don’t write novels!

    I’m a dreamer, too. I love that magical place. Butler’s book is my absolute favorite of all the required reading at Queens. In fact, it’s on the floor next to my chair right now.

    Okay, new section of the blog: writer doodles! 🙂

  3. #3 by emilia fuentes grant on May 25, 2012 - 11:43 am

    What can I say? I love pictures. I think that might be the other reason I write longhand. I always wanted to be an artist but words on the page (and doodles) are as close as I get. Thanks for the kind words ladies.

  4. #4 by My Rite of Passage on May 26, 2012 - 7:57 am

    I applaud such an open-minded approach; it sounds like you’re a very versatile writer. I’m attached to my desk and computer…a little bit limiting. But I do write in my head, too, as well as in my dreams.

    • #5 by emilia fuentes grant on May 28, 2012 - 10:08 am

      There’s nothing limiting about a desk, or knowing exactly where you need go everyday to get the work done. It’s possible I just haven’t found the right desk yet. This one’s too big, that one’s too soft, gotta find the one that’s just right– and get my nap in before the bears come home. Wait, what?

  5. #6 by on July 2, 2012 - 2:39 pm

    Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you
    download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog shine.
    Please let me know where you got your theme. Appreciate it

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