26 Sep

Writing Out

Posted in Brain Boot Camp, DIY MFA

One of my favorite things to do is going on a writing date.  Sometimes I go alone, sometimes I’ll meet up with a fellow writer and we’ll sit and write side-by-side for a while.  Over the past few years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned that there’s a certain code for writing out.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

1)  If you’re writing in a cafe or restaurant, try to avoid rush hours.   Chances are, the lunch rush at your favorite cafe will be busy and noisy and not conducive to writing.  If you go during an off-hour, like between meals, not only are you likely to get more writing done because it won’t be as hectic, but you also won’t tick off the staff by taking up a table just to sip coffee and write.

2)  If it’s a cafe with table service, order food and leave a good tip.  This is especially important if you want to become a regular and come back again to write.  Once you’ve established that you’re not just there to take up space and that you’re a good tipper, the waitstaff is more likely to give you some perks, like a regular table or even the occasional freebie.

3)  Know when it’s time to say goodbye to a writing spot.  If your favorite, best-kept-secret spot suddenly becomes THE place to be, then it’s time to find a new writing locale.  There’s this amazing little tea shop near me where I used to go to write and draw in my sketchbook.  It used to be so quiet that I could sit there for two hours and just order a pot of tea (and sometimes they’d even give me a scone on the house!)  Then this place got super-popular and now good luck getting a table for lunch or tea, much less a spot to sit and write.

At the risk of these places getting uber-popular and being overrun with writers, let me share some of my writing spots in NYC:

Shakespeare Garden in Central Park (that’s where the photos come from – it’s near the Great Lawn, toward the SW end, and near-ish the 81st West Side entrance to the park.)  This beautiful, quiet garden is great for writing or just sitting and contemplating life.
s’Nice on 8th Ave, just south of 14th St. or in Brooklyn (5th Ave btwn 2nd and 3rd St.) Yummy sandwiches and salads.  They’re sort of sticklers about not using laptops on certain tables but if you sit at the communal table it’s no problem.
The Atrium at Lincoln Center (Broadway between 62nd and 63rd St.)  Free wifi!  Also the space is completely free and open to the public.  And some Saturdays they even have free live classical music.
Le Pain Quotidien a Belgian bistro that has branches all over the city.  My favorite one is the Lincoln Center space on 65th between Broadway and CPW.  They get a bit mobbed with the lunch crowd but later in the afternoon it quiets down and is a great place to sit and work.

Do you have a favorite spot to “write out”?  What about the “writing out” code… do you have any additional tips to share?


Comments on this post

  1. Najela says:

    There's the botanical gardens at my college that I want to go and write at one day. There are also the commons (HUB as they call it now) and the science library and humanities library. I just like to write in my bedroom, but sometimes I do need a change of scenery to get the brain jogging.

    1. Milo James Fowler says:

      My wife and I have started planning "writing dates" this year, and it seems that we always find nice, quiet coffee shops around town — that soon become the center of the known universe. Rush hour? Perhaps. Or they're just drawn into the vortex of our creative genius…

      1. Wannabe Writer says:

        There's a coffee shop that serves fantastic food and wine about 2 minutes from my place. For the most part, it's fantastic. But I have noticed during off-peak hours, families with kids are more likely to come in, so sometimes it gets a little noisy.

        1. Colene Murphy says:

          great advice. those pictures make me want to go wherever that is!

          1. Kerryn Angell says:

            Although I'm up to Week 10 of The Artist's Way I have yet to succesfully go on an Artist's Date. I can say that I've never gone on a Writer's Date although since moving to Manchester I have discovered the perfect place I'd love to disappear to and do a little writing: John Rylands Library.

            1. just-cassie.com says:

              Oh, I am so envious. I used to be able to write other places, but pretty much wherever I am there are children these days! Gives me something to look forward to though, when they are a little older 🙂

              1. KarenG says:

                Here's my rule for writing out– get my butt out of the damn house. No, I'm not very good at it but this post really made me want to try harder!

                1. Dave Symonds says:

                  Another great place is the NYC Public Library near Bryant Park.

                  Every library has free wifi and there are always quite rooms where you can get writing done.

                  Also, Borders/B&N have cafes attached usually, and what better place to write then a place where you're surrounded by books.

                  1. kathanink says:

                    I go to the Starbucks near my house nearly every weekday, which fortunately for me isn't horribly popular. I sit outside, which really helps me to concentrate. I don't know what I'll do when it gets too cold to sit outdoors (it sort of was this morning, in fact). There's another coffee shop in town that's pretty new, so I may try that.

                    I do love to do my creative thinking in places other than my house, for sure!

                    1. J.C. Martin says:

                      I must admit I've never 'written out' before, although I do find a change in location always helps. Apart from my desktop, I use my notebook computer in bed propped up with pillows (it *rarely* makes me fall asleep!), at the kitchen table while waiting for my tutoring appointment, or for some food to cook, and when the weather's nice, out on the patio.

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