In preparation for this trip to UK, I researched the best places to write in London. I found a plethora of interesting and opinionated articles detailing the pros and cons of particular artist hubs and cafes. One blogger denounced coffee shops as the worst places to pen a work due to the traffic flow and music, another rated his picks based on the quality of the lattes served and the availability of wifi, a third favoured spots where she felt she was in the company of other artists.
Bottom line? There are divergent opinions out there about what environments are conducive to artistry and productivity.
I began to consider that finding the right spot for you and your writing is rather personal. Perhaps the key is to know yourself — your work habits, your attentional style, and your current writing/research needs.
Know yourself and your work habits: Perhaps you’re notoriously cheap and don’t want to have to have to buy an espresso and croissant in order to occupy a table for a few hours. Your preferred spot may be your kitchen table or the local library.
Perhaps you’re more a creature of routine and you like returning to the same scratched up café table day-after-day.
Maybe you’re a little like me. Whenever I’m in the city (not out in the suburbs where I live), I try out new places to write. I rarely return to the same place twice, not because I thrive in a new environment but because I like to be a “flaneur”– and when I tire of walking, I find the closest place around to sit down and write. Sometimes I choose the location simply because it has a clean washroom, comfortable chairs (in my opinion) or an electrical outlet where I can plug in my dying laptop. When I’m in the suburbs, my practical side kicks in and I write wherever I happen to find myself when I have the time to write.
Your attentional style: Are you easily distracted? Then it’s possible that Starbucks and its long lines of jabbering teenaged frappucino drinkers are not for you. Perhaps you’re inspired by the movement of people and find that ideas flow to you in the busiest of settings. A trip to the local McDonalds may be sufficient to advance your productivity, Big Mac-induced heart burn notwithstanding.
Maybe you can narrow your focus, block everything out, and escape into your own imaginary world. Well, for you, perhaps, anything goes. But if you want to be able to return to the real world from time to time and enjoy a decent deli sandwich (or whatever your culinary preference), you might pick your venue accordingly.
Your current writing/research needs: It’s also possible that your preferred writing locale may change depending on your mood or what you’re working on. Writing an article that involves heavy research may require you to find a place with access to the internet or book stacks. Or, a bout of awful writer’s block may require you to find a spot that inspires or motivates you. A piece that forces you to dig deep down into a particular emotion may be aided by a venue that allows you to explore that emotion in some way, or a place that gives you access to a memory that evokes that feeling.
My point? We all differ in so many ways and there may not be a one-size-fits all magical space where authors can go to produce the next Pulitzer Prize-winning tome.