Production Context – Where & when do you write?

This is a question that I’ve always found fascinating. Where do people actually write? Is it always ‘live’ in the moment, in a mad dash through your bag or pockets for notebook and pen, or is it after the event, at home? On a computer? In a book? On the back of your hand? Do you, like me, occasionally type a line into an unsent text message? The classic cafe napkin? Are you a true Romantic poet and do you get out there and compose in the wilds of nature?

‘When’ is another question that interests me. Evening and late night, is often when I work best, especially with poetry. And not just because of my reasonably typical 8-5 job. It’s also about the quiet, the lack of phone calls, visitors and so on. When writing in the daylight hours I have more luck on the weekend.

I suppose, when I ask about ‘where’ I should include the Ideological Where, but that might be too big of a topic for this blog post, so perhaps I might instead go a little more micro in focus, and ask about the workspace itself?

The amount of clutter on my desktop definitely impedes me. If there isn’t at least some free space nearby, I cannot work. Instead, I have a notice-board behind the laptop. It’s covered in t-shirt logos, images, photos, notes, postcards of famous paintings, ticket stubs, an old lanyard from my days working at Sanity and an old pair of headphones. It’s cluttered, but it’s clutter with a soul I guess, as opposed to the kipple that often overtakes my desktop.

So I’d love to hear what you think, where do you compose and what sort of impact does it have on your writing?

Image 1: Casper David Friedrich. ‘Wanderer above the Mist’.  1817-1818.
Image 2: ArtbyFLo. ‘Smiling Moon’.  2008

16 thoughts on “Production Context – Where & when do you write?

  1. Small notes strewn all over the house and in my pockets. Boxes of notes on my desk, a whiteboard for big ideas, lots of tea. But mostly I type or speak directly into my laptop. Preferably at my desk, sometimes in the garden. My best writing time is between late afternoon and evening – dusk being somehow the most creative time of day for me.

    • Hi Patricia!
      I like dusk too, perhaps it’s the winding down feeling, the colours bleeding out a little? Notes in your pockets – lost any gems in the wash? How do you find voice recognition software? I’ve never used it but have often wondered what it is like.

  2. Lordy…I have no plan whatsoever. I’m slowly working one out but I am ADHD and completely undisciplined. If I don’t get something in minutes, that’s it, I’m petulant, distracted, un-happy.

    If I do get something it’s jotted down in a hurry, right there, on the phone if need be, then worked out on a computer.

    I’m not a writer so I haven’t been around all the ‘about writing’ stuff that I read about so often…I wish I had because I have a feeling that a lot of my blockage emerges from HOW I approach writing.

    Anyway, I’m sure that wasn’t helpful at all!

    Oh, I tell you what…I like the television on when I’m searching for inspiration, and I like to jot down my dreams – when I can…it’s more challenging than it seems, you talk yourself out of it in the moment because you’re not thinking straight even though you’d swear 100% that you are.

    I’ll stop rambling.

    • Ramble on, kolembo!
      Dreams have always been pretty slippery for me to capture, I agree. And it’s interesting that you use the tv while searching, is it on while you read? Or do you use it? Some of my best ideas seem to end up being taken from a moment on tv and re-contextualised somehow.
      All that ‘about writing stuff’ can be useful, I think, if it’s put through a sifter and you end up with the bits that work for you, I’ve been trying to do that for years!

    • Thanks for visiting, Richard!
      Not quite as much room on the ledge I bet. It is good, clutter, isn’t it? My noticeboard is pretty good, I do have a problem with rotating things, instead I seem to cover them over with new things as most of us do.

  3. There is no place there is no way.
    There is always a notebook and (or at least) a pen with me. You never knows when or where muse is going to strike. My biggest problem is driving and I will not be quite until I can afford myself one of those cool recorders.
    I have no working space but I badly need one. Perhaps it will make me move into the working part of the craft which I miss on so much.

    Nice post Ash, looking forward to read more…

    • Dhyan, thank you!
      So if it’s only a pen, what gets written on, Dyhan? The back of your hand?
      That kind of recording device would be useful, safe too, huh? Not enough space in your current home, for a dedicated desk? I found my writing focus shifted big time once I set up in a room separate to the rest of the house.

  4. The poems can come from anywhere and you have to be ready. Often a few lines will hit me when I’m driving and I have to keep repeating them in my head until I can pull over, on occasion and totally illegal I’ve written them into my phone while driving.
    I always carry a small bag with whatever book I’m reading and a spiral bound notebook (the binding perfect for carrying a parker pen so that I don’t have to forage through my bag for it).
    For polishing work I have my study, over crowded with books, records, a dual monitor desktop computer and a laptop, guitars, posters etc.
    The biggest obstacle is the 9 – 5, but as all poets know it’s only a matter of time before you strike it big, and then all the money accorded to poetry comes flowing in 😉

    • Hey Mark,
      Hahaha! Yup, I have been told much the same, just a matter of time now…The driving, bet that would suck in a freeway situation? When that’s happened to me I end up losing the line/s, because I’m so unwilling to pull over, just keen to get home etc
      I think a lot of us surround ourselves with art & its instruments at the workspace – is it window dressing or actually stimulating? I think it must be, otherwise we’d be in white cubicles or something. Ah, parker pens. Favourite brand of pen then?

  5. all of the above, ashley. chuckled at the ‘unsent text message’ – have done that more than a few times. sometimes in the middle of a lecture. in the car (mostly, but not always, as a passenger).

    when? pomes are funny things. sometimes they are insistent, and demand to be written at once. sometimes they must be teased and cajoled and gently chucked under the chin. i’ve finished a couple lately that i started more than two years ago. the first draft came in a rush, then silence. and more silence. then, at last, and very quickly, a culmination.

    i’ve ceased pondering the mysteries of the process, and try to avoid unhelpful frustration, but just be glad there IS a process of one kind or another.

    ps i’m here via g.nunn, and phillip ellis.



    • Hi Bruce! Isn’t the unsent text message so useful? One of technology’s truly useful leaps!

      Wow, that’s a lot of silence, did the finishing come in a rush too? I’ve done just a few times over the years, and it always bursts out and the poem in completed in a surprisingly short time. Quite satisfying really, huh?

      A bit of ‘The Wizard behind the Curtain?’ feel to writing, sometimes, isn’t there? Which can be nice, as much as I seek to understand what it we do, sometimes it’s nice (and relaxing) to just let it happen without analysing too much

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