I’ll write anywhere but not all writeable spaces are equal. My latest novel was written all over the place (see: How to Write a Novel in a Month) and if I learned anything from that experience it’s that although chaos can breed creativity, I work best with simplicity and routine. Currently I am writing this on the living room sofa—keep reading if you want to know how I feel about that.
In a Via Rail Sleeper Car (5/5)
This is undeniably the best. There are downsides such as the cost of the ticket, the inevitable delays (fine for longer writing sessions, bad if you’re missing a connection), and the fact that there’s no wi-fi in the sleeper cars themselves, but the pros outweigh the cons in my opinion. The view is good and constantly changing and there’s something about sitting still while moving—some theorist has probably said something about this and the feeling of being in utero or does that make any sense at all?—and this liminal feeling of being between home and the destination. Travel puts me in a highly emotional and alert state, which is good for generating ideas. Plus one of the best times for me to write is when I’m alone but with others. This brings me to my next location.
The Coffee Shop (4/5)
I like writing in cafés because it forces me to get my act together a little more than when I’m at home, and I always work better when I’m wearing real clothes and sitting up straight. I also like the way it places some boundaries around the length of the writing session and creates more of a sense of urgency. If I’m at home in my nightgown I can spend all day trying to get started, and everything melts together into one long non-day. At the cafe I’m kept on track by the amount of time it takes me to have a coffee, my laptop battery, and so on, and there’s a certain amount of social anxiety that can be helpful to my ability to focus. In private I’ll do anything—stand up halfway through a sentence, speak out loud to myself for an hour, close my laptop and take a shower, and so on. The downside is the cafe around the corner from me is always playing that “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” song.
My Bedroom (in bed) (3/5)
Good but feels too indulgent. Sometimes I fall asleep.
My Bedroom (at my desk) (4/5)
Also good. Classic. In my apartment now are the same desk and chair I used when I was 13, and they’re where I wrote my first short story. The chair is too high for the desk so I kind of sit at a distance and hunch over, which now that I mention it is probably bad.
My Living Room (at the table) (0/5)
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Bad. Feline urine situation on the living room furniture. With enough enzyme spray this location might improve.
My Living Room (on the sofa) (0/5)
On Campus (3.5/5)
I’m in the second year of my PhD and I still can’t figure out how to connect to campus wifi. This is a con. Otherwise, the campus is nice and there’s always space to work at this big glass building called “The SUB.” My friend Mary told me it was because it’s like a big submarine under the river, or maybe she was messing with me, but then I realized it’s the Student Union Building. I also deducted a portion of a point because sometimes I run into my students and I'm not comfortable with authority or with being caught in a TNA sweatsuit.
Fredericton at Large (midway through a run, on the way to meet a friend, while running errands, etc.) (?/5)
I keep a pen and notebook in my bag or I write notes in the Notes app on my phone. Hard to rate this one as it's different every time.
In the car while someone else drives (1/5)
Too socially complicated but I usually get good ideas. It’s rude to ignore the person doing you the favour of driving. Not worth it. Plus there’s nowhere to charge anything and you can’t really handwrite on the road. Another option is writing while you yourself are driving, which means pulling over and feeling self-conscious while you scribble something down. Don't bother!
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Fawn Parker is a Giller-nominated author of five books including What We Both Know (M&S 2022), Soft Inheritance (Palimpsest 2023), and the forthcoming Hi, it's me (M&S 2024). Fiction and poetry have appeared in The Literary Review of Canada, The Walrus, and Maisonneuve. Fawn's official website has been surrendered to the great artificial intelligence and she is not in fact a gambling expert or addict.