Thursday, December 23, 2010

Panel Discussion: What is the best atmosphere for you to write in?

Quiet room or Public Coffee Shop; Music on or NO Music; TV on or NO TV.

Cliff Ball
The best atmosphere I prefer to write in is a quiet room. I have to have absolute silence, otherwise I can't concentrate. I have no music playing, and my TV is not on. When there are times that I prefer to write by hand, I even have to have my computer turned off because the background noise it makes can irritate me when I'm trying to concentrate on writing. When I have tried writing when there are noisy distractions, I make a lot of mistakes, and I also tend to not catch those mistakes. So, I have to have everything around me as silent as possible when writing.

Author website:

Terrence O’Brien
First, I consider writing to be everything an author has to do to get a novel onto the page. After that the tasks are formatting, distributing, promoting, and anything else that can be done by someone else.

So, with that expansive idea of writing, I write in all kinds of places. I imagine each episode of the tale while running, driving, exercising in the gym, or just kicking back in a chair. I visualize locations, people, actions, weather, expressions, and dialog in as much detail as I can, moving around the scene watching and listening to everything that is happening. That vacant expression people detect? That's me mentally role playing each character to get a feel for what is happening. Walter Mitty? Yeah, could be.

When it comes time to sit down in front of the screen and type up an episode for the first time, I usually go to an upstairs room around 11pm when everything in the house has quieted down. There are windows all around three sides, and in the winter frost forms on the inside since I keep the heat turned off up there. In the summer, all the windows are open and the air conditioning turned off. The door is closed, music banned, and Max the cat sits on one side of the keyboard, and an ancient high intensity desk lamp sits on the other side so there is little reflection to interfere with frequent gazing out the windows. That word I am searching for can often be found by looking over the screen and out the window. The clock is turned away, my watch is in my pocket, and a small ebony elephant blocks the time display in the lower corner of the screen. The best part is that episode I had so carefully crafted in my head always changes for the better when it gets its words. But, after that first draft of an episode, the rules change, and it can be revised, edited, or expanded on a small netbook anywhere I happen to be.
Author Website:

Noah Mullette-Gillman
The best atmosphere for me is loud sound that I control. I don’t want to hear other people. I don’t want the television on. I play music and as my writing becomes more frenetic, the music gets noisier. Nick Cave and Tom Waits are good: Murder Ballads, Grinderman, Glitter and Doom, Bone Machine. The National, Tom McKean and the Emperors, certain Soundgarden songs, certain Grant Lee Philips songs, the soundtracks to Pan’s Labyrinth and The Fountain; I like dark and energetic music when I write.

I need to be alone. I can’t usually write with other people in the room.  Thunderstorms help. No, I don’t control them, but I feel like I can use their energy.

It’s not that my writing is always dark. It often isn’t, but there’s a Plutonian passion in that kind of music that is rarely there in lighter work. I drink it up like water.  For some reason Richard Cheese also works, especially his cover of Down with the Sickness.

Suzanne Tyrpak
I can write, and do write almost anywhere: coffee shops, airports, hotel rooms, driving in my car—I’m big on sticky notes (not recommended: can be dangerous). But my favorite place to write is in my cozy library/office/spare-room. These days I prefer sitting in my cushy pink chair and writing on my laptop. The bookshelf (a whole wall) is next to me, so I can easily reference things—I write a lot of historical fiction, so research is imperative. I’ve noticed that too many hours of sitting on my chair with the laptop can lead to back-pain so, when I begin my new novel, I may have to retreat to my desk. I like the view from my chair, though. When I look up, I see trees and sky. I feel like I’m in a tree-house, and it’s easy to dream.

Usually, my place is quiet—a true luxury. When I lived in a house, the cats used to walk over my keyboard or try to take a nap on it. Now I live in an apartment by myself, and my cats live with my ex (he has land and a cat door). And, if I have a day off from the airport where I work, I can write for hours with no interruptions; sometimes I write all day in my pajamas. And sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write. Writing just after I wake is my best time; the transition from dreamtime to story can be magical.

Coneuelo Saah Baehr
One of my favorite books is Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast”.  In that book he writes about his life in Paris as a young man when he often sat in a cafe on the Left Bank scribbling away in his notebooks. I was besotted with that image. It was exactly how I was going to write my books.

I received a contract from Simon & Schuster to write my first book based on an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.  I had to finish a book I had not begun (except for the initial short essay) within nine months.  I had three children under six.  We lived in the woods with no help.  I wrote the book at the dining room table while the kids ran around tormenting each other. Fast forward to the present.  The kids are grown, The house is quiet. The whole darn village is quiet. I can’t write in quiet. There is a social concept that we all need three places: our home, our office and a third place where we can go.  Starbucks (or its equivalent) is our “third place,” an anonymous safe spot where we are part of the bustle but not of it. The local library is another place.  My mind is most calm and receptive when I am surrounded by impersonal benign activity.  I like the murmur of people talking in the background.  No music. No television. I am most productive when ensconced amid the hum and bustle of daily life.

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