Romance Writing: Where It’s At
Here’s a question, for all the writers out there: where do you prefer to write, and why?
As a novelist and freelance editor, I don’t have an office to go to (yet; more about this in a minute), so I mostly work from home. This works pretty well for me; it’s nice not to have to waste time driving to and from my place of employment, and I enjoy the freedom of being able to sit at my desk, or the dining room table, or on my couch aka bed (it’s a sofa bed) to get work done. And the best part, of course, is working in my PJs – I love that. I’m a huge fan of wearing the comfiest clothing possible, whenever possible.
But after a few days of this, even I – hater of crowds, sun, heat, and most things outdoors – start to go a bit stir-crazy, and start looking for somewhere else to work. So what’s available? I’ve tried libraries, coffee shops, fast-food restaurants, and mall food courts – is there any other indoor public space available that I haven’t thought of?
I love libraries; I always have. But I can’t work in them: they’re too quiet. The quiet itself doesn’t bother me – I can work in silence – but after a while I start feeling like I must be bothering the other patrons. I sniff, I cough, I shift in my seat, I giggle over something I’ve written or read… and after 30 minutes or so I’m in a state of full-on paranoia, assuming everyone within a 50-foot radius wants to claw my eyes out for making too much noise. I’m probably not really that noisy – I certainly don’t whistle, hum, tap, or talk on the phone in libraries like some people do – but I still feel horribly loud for whatever reason. So I can’t last more than about half an hour in a library.
I do a bit better in coffee shops, restaurants, and especially food courts, though I don’t usually manage to stay very long since I get worried that it’s rude to linger after I’ve finished consuming whatever drink and/or food I’ve just purchased. Hmm, maybe the bigger problem here is paranoia…
And speaking of paranoia, I have a hard time writing in public at all. Stephen King has said (or at least, one of his characters – I think it was Gordie LaChance in “The Body” – has said) that “The act of writing itself is done in secret, like masturbation”, and suggested that it may take someone who is “nearly crazy with courage” to do it where anybody can see them. That definitely describes how I feel. I can edit in public (well, I can do my academic editing in public – my erotic romance editing is another story), but I find it very difficult to write in public. This applies no matter what I’m writing, but it’s even harder when I’m writing romance or erotic romance. In public, I always feel like there’s someone reading over my shoulder.
And what’s wrong with that, you ask? The thing is, I’m not totally sure. I don’t think it’s precisely that I’m afraid of being judged for what I write. If, instead of reading over my shoulder, the same hypothetical person asked what I do, I’d be happy to tell them I write erotic romance, and – if they were interested – give them my name and the title of my book so they could read it for themselves. And if they hated the book or thought I should be ashamed of writing “smut”, I’d shrug and carry on doing my thing.
But there’s something about the thought of being observed in the act of writing that really bothers me. I don’t want anyone watching while I choose my words, while I pour my muse out onto the page. That really does – to me at least, as to Stephen King – seem like having a stranger watch while you masturbate. Can’t do it, nope.
Also, I’m starting a new job at my local university in the fall, for which I will have a shared office. I plan to go in four days a week, and I’m looking forward to finding out how it will be to write (and edit, and do academic work) there. I will definitely try to arrange the furniture so that my office mate and/or people passing by in the hall won’t be able to see my computer screen as I work. But, to be honest, sometimes even sitting in a corner with my back to the wall isn’t enough to let me write comfortably in a public place.
Not yet, at least. I’m going to keep pushing my limits on this, because I really do go stir-crazy working at home all the time, and I really do want to someday feel like the stereotypical hipster sitting in a coffee shop, sipping a latte, tapping coolly away at a screenplay on a Macbook. (Even though I’m not a hipster, I hate coffee, and I’ll be writing romance novels, not screenplays. But I do have a Macbook Air. )
Am I weird? How do you feel about writing in public? Where do you like to write?