Which is best: Writing at home or a public space?

One key to being a productive and creative writer is determining which place – home alone or in a public place like a library, coffeeshop or cafe.

Famous authors differ in their preference. Franz Kafka wrote at home but only when his entire family had left. Emily Dickinson rarely left her house and later in life her bedroom. Other writers liked the hustle and bustle of coffee shops and parks. Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir often spent hours at a time writing their novels and essays in Paris cafes.

And some select truly odd places to write. Vladimir Nabokov, for example, liked to write in the backseat of his car as his wife drove.

So where’s the best place to write for you to write – alone in your home or at a public place (We’ll presume you’re not an oddball like Nabokov)?

At first glance, each place is fraught with perils to your writing time.

Writing at home usually means distractions galore, such as wondering if the laundry is done, seeing the dirty dishes in the sink while up your coffee mug, or realizing you really should vacuum the floors as gazing over your laptop to think through the wording of your next sentence. In short, your home gives the writer in you a thousand reasons to procrastinate.

Writing in public often means a loud, chaotic noise, as people talk and laugh or an occasional plate is dropped. And then there’s the nauseating perfume of the lady sitting near you and in winter the cold rush of air that freezes you every time someone opens the door.

Considering this, it’s surprising that any writing gets done by anyone at all.

But of course it does.

That’s because most writers thrive in one environment or the other. They’re able to focus and feed off of either the quiet of home or the clamor of a public place. A few even are able to write in both situations.

To find which works best for you may mean experimenting with each location a little. It also may mean making a few adjustments.

Tips on writing at home
To be a more productive and creative writer in your home, you may want to:
• Do housework in brief breaks – To avoid eye strain, you should quit looking at your computer screen every 10-15 minutes. Keep those breaks to 30 seconds (set a timer if you must) to fold a few clothes, wash a couple of dishes, and to set the bleach and sponge on the bathroom sink. Then get back to writing.
• Refocus the view from your workspace – Turn your desk or place it in a spot where you can’t see anything else in the house. For example, the view from my work desk is the tree-lined backyard from a large picture window. The green leaves and singing birds are peaceful but not distracting. Fill a carafe with coffee or tea so you don’t need to get up for it.
• Turn off everything – That means no television, no cell phone, no window opened to your email (even if it’s minimized)…maybe even no music playing in the background. Don’t give these distractions an opportunity to eat away your writing time.

Tips on writing in public space
To be a more productive and creative writer in a public space, you may want to:
• Select the right atmosphere – Not all coffeeshops, cafes or libraries look alike. Some are very stark with postmodern furniture while others are quite homey. Some attract mainly college kids while others are for the office crowd. Some are loud spots where people mainly visit while others are hushed and full of readers and studiers. Some of these moods and tones will nourish while others will quash your creativity.
• Go when those places aren’t busy – If you like the liveliness of a coffee shop or cafe but don’t want it too lively, then write when there are only a few customers. Every spot is a little different in its customer flow, so you may need to go at various times to see what works best.
• Find a spot that’s tucked away – Just as you would refocus your workspace when writing from home, find a table that’s not next to a major aisle for customers. One with a great view that keeps you from looking at other customers is optimal. A back corner is a good idea, as it keeps people from glancing over your shoulder at what you’re writing.
• Don’t sign into the local Wi-Fi – The temptation to check your email and look at Facebook will be just too great. Turn off your cell phone while you’re at it too.
• Wear earbuds – If the background buzz gets too loud while you’re in the writing groove, don some earbuds to block out the noise. You may even listen to music turned down low enough that it’s an additional sound barrier but doesn’t distract you.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.