Written by A Guest Author August 22nd, 2018

Where to Write

Written by Geary Smith

Several years ago, while vacationing with the family in Key West, Florida, I can remember looking up at the home of Ernest Hemingway, especially, the small window that looked out over the Atlantic Ocean. I thought about Ernest Hemingway sitting in his chair and in his favorite place. As I took the tour, I stared at his small typewriter and looked around his room and could image him sitting writing his famous novel The Old Man and the Sea. After a long day of learning more about the history and culture of Key West, I began to understand why he wrote so many of his books related to the experiences about the sea.

So where is the best place to write?

There’s No Real Consensus

Any writing requires a vision, inspiration, motivation, talent, a story to tell and share and concentration—and that usually demands isolation. In his book On Writing, Stephen King offers some advice:

“If possible, there should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall. For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction.”

But in this technology age, eliminating distractions can be hard to do and quite a challenge.

For example, Marcel Proust wrote from midnight to dawn in a cork-lined room. Annie Dillard found out while trying to write the second half of her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, even a study carrel in a library may supply distractions.

So Where is the Best Place to Write?

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, thinks that Nathalie Sarraute had the right idea:

“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.”

Not everyone agrees, of course. Thomas Mann preferred writing in a wicker chair by the sea. Corinne Gerson wrote novels under the hair dryer in a beauty shop. William Thackeray, like Margeret Drabble, chose to write in hotel rooms. And Jack Kerouac wrote the novel Doctor Sax in a toilet in William Burroughs’ apartment. John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist, suggested the following:

“It helps greatly in the avoidance of work to be in the company of others who are also waiting for the golden moment. The best place to write is by yourself because writing then becomes an escape from the terrible boredom of your own personality.
(“Writing, Typing, and Economics,” The Atlantic, March 1978)

I think Virginia Woolf had it right when she said that every writer needs a “room of one’s own” to be productive. There’s nothing quite like finding that one special place that simply lets you create and write. At first when I started writing, my special place was the kitchen table very early in the morning or late at night, when the kids were asleep. However, as time past and my writing career progressed, I found myself venturing out to coffee shops, book stores, museums, and libraries being surrounded by books and people. I think sometimes writers simply need to get out and socialize, taking breaks between writing assignments to gain new ideas and insights.

In conclusion, I tend to agree with Ernest Hemingway who simply said, “The best place to write is in your head.”


Geary Smith has been writing for children and young adults for over 30 years. His work has been published in such venues as Highlights for Children, Child Life, McGraw-Hill, ProQuest and many other publications. Geary has a B.S. in Psychology from Morehouse College and M.Ed. from Stephen F. Austin University. He is a certified Life Coach and Counselor, Assistant Minister and City Councilman/Mayor Pro Tem.


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