• Your Writing Habitat

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 5 comments

    I live in a cave.

    At least it seems that way. My apartment is on the bottom floor, and a gigantic tree casts a wide circle of shade out front. My patio has a high fence around it so no creepers can see in. I suppose this is for my benefit, but when I look out my sliding glass doors all I see is taupe-colored boards in desperate need of a paint job. I only have one window in my office and one in my bedroom. We face west, so the best sunlight is just as the evening news comes on. If I kept the shades shut the entire apartment would stay pitch black all day. Every wall is painted gray, which, in theory I suppose is better than insane asylum white. My floors are stained concrete. This drab paint job and stone cold flooring confirms my theory—my apartment is more a cave than a home.

    Now I am not telling you this because my husband is sick of hearing me complain and I need another outlet to vent, but because I want to get you thinking about whether the space you write in is having a positive impact on your work. I am a strong believer that your daily surroundings can have a significant impact on your creativity, how you feel, and even your happiness. Right before I moved to Austin last year, I had to pick out my new apartment from 1,500 miles away—if I would’ve known I would need a headlamp just to find my way to the bathroom, I would’ve chosen somewhere else to live. Writing and living in this cave-like environment makes me feel … blah … and sometimes even slightly depressed and lethargic.

    When I sit down in the morning to begin writing, besides having a strong cup of coffee, I want sunlight. I want brightly-colored walls, or at least any color that wouldn’t be allowed in a prison cell. I want to be able to open a window and get some fresh air, and look out and see anything other than an ugly patio fence. Since my home can’t provide this for me, I often go to a coffee shop for a refreshing change of scenery. Lately I’ve been working at Genuine Joe’s. The walls are a light green. They have lumpy vintage couches, cozy nooks, and comfy chairs to lounge in; big, beautiful windows with frames painted white and chipped with age; a large stone fireplace with a random, gigantic yellow G hung over it; and best of all, they have sunlight. Lots of it. It streams in through all of those old windows, casting patterns on the walls and warming my legs as I write.

    Just thinking about it makes me breathe a little easier. Currently I am on my living room couch. It’s noon. The sun is of course blazing outside, but I have to keep the lamp on next to me just so I don’t birth a cataract in my eye.

    So I’m curious–what kind of environment do you most like to write in? Perhaps you prefer a dark, quiet room with little natural light, like a little literary spelunker. Or maybe you could care less and prefer to do your writing on the city bus or on the toilet—whatever, just as long as you’re getting your words on paper. Or you’re like me and need your environment to be bright, energizing, full of sunlight, and flat out inspiring.

    Let us know below.

    P.S. You know where a really great place to write is? WriteByNight during their free open writing hours every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Pardon my shameless plug, but I couldn’t resist.

    P.P.S. I am moving next week to a third floor apartment in historic, beautiful, lovely Hyde Park. My balcony faces east and has a view of a garden and beautiful old church. One of my favorite coffee shops is only a block away. There will be sunlight. Lots of it. My living room will be painted avocado green, and the floors will be wood.

    I can’t wait.


    Katie’s work has been featured in Austin Lifestyle Magazine, Redbook Magazine, Thrillist.com, and Homerun.com. She is also excited to be contributing to the new Austin publication BE Mag, launching its first issue this November. Prior to moving to Austin, Katie worked as an associate producer for an NBC affiliate in South Florida.

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    David Duhr

    You know where I’d like to write? Alan Heathcock’s travel trailer: http://writeplacewritetime.tumblr.com/post/8554829763/alan-heathcock

    If you ever get a chance to see this dude read, take advantage. He’s hilarious.

    As for me, a cave-like atmosphere is sometimes helpful. If I’m in a brightly-lit, open space, I often feel exposed and on stage. The two apartments where I’ve gotten my best writing done were both dark, dank, small. Maybe we should trade?

    Give me an 8′ x 8′ basement with some wood paneling and I’ll write the next GAN.

    Nate St. Pierre

    I’m a little literary spelunker!

    I concur with Duhr. 8′ x 8′ basement with wood paneling, and I’m locked in for life. The world won’t be ready for what would flow from there.

    Also, your current place sounds like my perfect apartment.

    David Duhr

    I don’t know if the world would even be ready for the odors that would flow from there, much less the words.

    I wonder what it says psychologically about us, and others like us, that we get so much more (and better) work done when we’re enclosed in a dark, small space. If I ever had to write in the middle of an open prairie I would have a meltdown.

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