Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Spaces’

Finding a Good Writing Space

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Spaces on February 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

One of my characters in my literary fiction novel “Fire Painter” works in a coffee shop, something I haven’t yet put on my resume.

I do most of my writing in coffee shops, so through observation and my own restaurant experience, I can write about the job of a barista. In other words, I spend more time than I should with a cooling mug or paper cup of coffee as I draft and edit short stories and chapters for my novels.

Why has this writing space become sacred, almost like the routines athletes might do before performing? Does it stimulate or is it overly familiar as if taking the same streets every day to get to work or the grocery store?

If I leave my day-job newsroom cubicle, I don’t automatically sink into writing articles, using my notes and imagination to come up with interesting leads and transitions. Instead, I’m more aware of my surroundings because the noises, smells and colors redirect my attention outward.

I approach my personal writing space in nearly the same way by turning public places into fancy wall-less cubicles with large windows, pretty, colorful décor and bright interior lighting. I sit at the same tables at my favorite local coffee shop or the couple of Starbucks within five minutes of driving.

While I know that I spend too much money on expensive coffee, I desire escaping the quiet of my apartment to provoke new ways of imagining. In my apartment, nothing changes around me, so I feel an exterior boredom.

I need sound and movement, so that I can glance up and see the baristas gossiping or a man still dressed in business attire reading a book, looking inquisitive. I hear the grind of the espresso machine, cell phones beeping and the rhythm of conversation as it dips and rises.

It’s like reading, I can pay attention to the exterior world or get lost in my own, and when I need a break, pause and look around.

What is your writing space like? Do you go to the same places every time? Or do you need variety? Do you have a ritual that you engage in before you sit down with pen and paper or in front of a laptop?

Establishing a writing space presents routine, comfort and familiarity, while also being stimulating if it is the right fit for you.

(Check out how Zoey the Cute Dachshund describes “A Dog’s Space” at

A Quiet Writer who Likes Noise

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing group on May 5, 2013 at 11:00 am

The writing space is exterior to and, for me, opposite of the interior process of writing.
Mine has to be noisy, though I’m an introvert who likes quiet.

I need downtime from my day job as a reporter, avoiding scheduling too many social things after work, because without time to myself, I cannot put on my cheerful, confident persona the next day. I become exhausted, daydreaming about when I can next hang out alone.

So, why I need noise to write seems like a contradiction.

The noise I need is particular – that found in a coffee shop.

I’m not singular in this need, as I’ve read accounts of many other writers who treat coffee shops and cafes as their come-and-go-as-you-please office spaces.

Quiet, for me, is not stimulating, but peaceful for thinking, doing chores or reading. But too much of it is not ideal for creating. I can’t get lost in myself if it’s just me and the silence.
With noise, I might be distracted as I start to write, but after a few sentences, I lose the world and enter my created one.

The partially overheard conversations, the growl of the espresso machine, the hiss of the frothing milk and the barista’s “What can I get you?” floats in and out of the space around me, offering a stimulation that keeps the nosy part of my mind active.

It’s as if one part of my mind is processing the exterior world, while another activates the interior world. I have a setting outside of myself for the setting I’m trying to create within my story world.

In essence, I need the exterior noise and chatter to help me access my interior quiet as I straddle both worlds.

(Note: This blog was inspired after I read Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”)