Writing Out: Why, Where, How

You have stories to tell and points to make, but all that genius inside you needs to move out into the world. Show your writing how to do that by literally taking your writer self out into the world.

If you’ve never attended a Shut Up and Write Meetup, give it a try. These quiet-writing events in cafes and libraries are an international phenomenon and worth every minute you spend trying to find your meetup spot. I’m a fan of my local in San Francisco’s Mission, but I loved making new friends at the Montréal meetup on a recent trip. At a writing meetup, you can pick up on many of the reasons writers get out to write.

These are a few I find most compelling:

Claiming Space: Especially in cities where people believe all the artists have flown the coop, showing up and claiming writer spaces for writers matters.

Claiming Identity: Fake it till you make it really works. If writing makes you a writer, doing it in public slaps the identity right across your forehead.

Connecting to Community: You need a lot of alone time to write, so it’s easy to isolate. But you also need other people for feedback, ideas, encouragement, and empathy.

Peer Pressure: There’s no more tantalizing motivation than the burning desire to do what your friends are doing. Take advantage of this so-called weakness by surrounding yourself with other writers.

Inspiration: Exposing yourself to art, beauty, people, and places while you write will make writing easier, more natural, and more fun.

Writing is so mobile, you can really do it anywhere. I look for these kinds of places:

Public spaces: Not just parks but also building lobbies, roof decks, and terraces make glorious writing spots. Download this list of public spaces in San Francisco from my friends at Quirky SFO and SPUR. Public spaces often have free wifi, and the people watching is top notch. Two of my San Francisco favorites are the lobby at Second and Mission and the one with an Equator Coffee in it at Second and Tehama. I scored the “First To Review” badge on Yelp for this one in Montréal.

Museums: Most museums have great café space, but it’s also cool to take a notepad into a gallery. I mean, it’s really cool. Everyone will wonder what you’re up to, try to take surreptitious glances in case you're sketching, and think you are the most inspired and creative person there. And actually, you are. I love writing in my own local museum so much, I included step-by-step instructions in this review.

Libraries: All libraries offer a quiet place to write, and that’s really all you need. Some libraries offer breathtaking views and glamorous writing spots. I’ve been a fan of San Francisco Main since witnessing its opening in the mid ‘90s. If you’re in NYC, don’t miss the public library at 42nd and 5th Ave. In Montréal, I spent some quality time writing at the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec.

Cafes: Cafe writing is the best, in my opinion. I prescribe it in my free ebook, Arouse Your Writer Self, and I’ve reviewed more than 200 cafes for writers on Yelp.

Bars: Hemingway’s good advice to write drunk and edit sober works just fine for my process, so the only thing better than a cafe is a cafe with beer, which is a bar. Writing in bars enjoys a long tradition among writers. I recently visited the bar where Dorothy Parker famously spent all her time drinking at the Algonquin Hotel.

Spas: I’m not talking about writing while you get your toes done. I’m talking about spas that focus on hot water features like hot tubs and saunas. Greek philosopher Archimedes claimed to discover his most important mathematical principle while soaking in a hot tub and believed hot water inspired great thought and creativity. After you’ve soaked and steamed, and you’re cuddling up in your robe in the relaxation room, pull out a notebook and see what comes up. I recently spent time writing in a spa castle and aboard a spa boat.

Wherever you go, follow these tips to have a productive writing experience:

Keep it light. Did you know that many writers hoard pens? Even paper? I once hefted an entire unabridged dictionary with me to do editing at a cafe. Carrying too much is a common problem, so I avoid planning ahead what I’m going to write, which leads to library book and manuscript lugging. Instead, I trust my environment to prompt me. If I bring my laptop and my notebook, I have everything I need. If I want to travel extra-light, I ditch the computer, which usually means I’ll get more writing done.

Pay your rent. Don’t screw it up for the rest of us by overstaying your welcome. In cafes and bars, buy something every hour, and always tip your barista or bartender. In public spaces and libraries, you don’t need to worry about this, and in spas, you usually have to pay admission to enter.

Find your groove. Not everyone loves writing in museums, and not everyone feels like they can really work in a cafe. You may need to put more thought into which stages of your writing do best out and which stages prefer the privacy of your home. The main thing is to attend to your own comfort and joy so you can reap the benefits of writing out.


I'm a writer and teacher, dedicated to arousing writers and easing the messy, juicy, sexy process of creativity. For great ideas about where to write, browse my Yelp lists. While you're there, take a peek at the writer reviews for my private sessions, which are more affordable than you think. (And the first one’s free.)


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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

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