I get bored. My writing desk has a lovely view and I’ve made a cozy place to create, but sometimes I just need a change of scenery. However, when I set out to temporarily change my writing location, my mind draws a blank. So, I decided to compile a small list of places to go to create (both for you and for my own use).
Changing your scenery may require alittle extra energy, but it has been proven to shake up your ideas and boost your creativity. Like shaking that cereal box so the big pieces rise to the top and the crumbs fall to the bottom, finding a new place to write (even for a few hours) can do the following things:
- Help you become inspired by either nature or other people
- Change the neural pathways in your brain (yep, that’s a thing)
- Improve your mood
- Help you feel more relaxed
- Unstick any pesky writer’s block
I’m currently writing this article sitting at an outdoor table at a local coffee shop. And, incidentally, my relocation to that coffee shop was the inspiration for this article. So, in the interest of inspiration, better moods, relaxation, new neural pathways, and shooing away the dreaded writer’s block, here are a few ideas for where to go to put pen to page (or fingers to keys).
There are over 1,000 botanical gardens in the United States alone and they’re an exceptional choice for writing scenery. They’re quiet, you’re surrounded by nature, and when you need to stretch your legs, you can take a stroll through carefully cultivated flowers and trees you wouldn’t find in your backyard.
While some botanical gardens charge an entry fee, you can save some dough by paying for an annual membership which is usually cheaper and comes with perks like invitations to special events. I absolutely love finding a quiet corner in the desert garden portion of my local Huntington Gardens where I’m surrounded by flowering cactuses and butterflies.
What to bring:
- Small sheet or blanket if there aren’t any benches in your desired spot
- A hat or sunscreen
- Water (some gardens like Huntington are large and public water fountains are germy)
I know it sounds crazy. It probably is, but my car is comfortable and quiet. I can crank it up and control the temperature, I can play whatever tunes I want, and I can’t go anywhere (i.e. to the kitchen for the completely unearned snack break). Working in my car, for me, acts as a sort of concentration time out. I literally am trapped (my own doing) and I tell myself I have to be productive before I stand up.
Just so I don’t have the temptation to get out and head for the nearest television set or the chips and hummus in my kitchen, I drive to somewhere fabulous (like Beverly Hills) and park while I work. It’s fun to look up from my concentrated time writing and imagine one of those $20 million homes is my own.
What to bring
- Phone or other device to provide a hotspot for internet research
I know, I know. Playgrounds are loud and kids are obnoxious. However, if you’re the type of writer that can drown out voices, your local playground could be a good place to get your writing groove on. For me, the cacophony of a playground actually helps me concentrate. Additionally, kids’ antics can provide inspiration for countless articles and you can get a little taste of nature while you’re outdoors.
What to bring:
- Noise-canceling headphones (if you want)
- Sunscreen or hat
- Snacks and/or water
- Blanket if you prefer writing on the ground
Your local mall
Malls are dying a slow death these days, but that makes them a good option for getting some work done in a pretty quiet environment. You can set up on a comfy chair in between The Gap and Bath and Body Works, languish in the freesia scents wafting your way, and click away at your keyboard. You also might find a little inspiration from the passersby.
You can also set up shop in the food court or on the sofas in department store sitting rooms. My favorite malls for writing purposes are outdoor malls in the summer. I have been known to frequent places like The Galleria in Glendale, CA, and The Grove in Hollywood. You can get some shopping done and watch people as they come and go. You could even grab a glass of wine at a restaurant!
What to bring
- Wallet — you know you’re going to want to buy something
- Note — I also always like to dress to the nines when I go to write at the mall. It’s a fun and silly habit and I like to pretend I’m Carrie in Sex in the City.
Local coffee shops
If I could marry one food or beverage, it would be coffee. It gives me energy, it has minimal calories, and it’s good for me (in reasonable quantities). I am super lucky to have a plethora of local coffee shops in my neighborhood and I frequent many of them to use as the backdrop to my writing.
Here’s the important thing about finding the perfect coffee shop — you must choose based on whether you want to be interrupted or not. There’s a fabulous shop called Priscilla’s in Burbank that is a veritable hub for screenwriters, directors, and actors. I can’t sit there for more than 1/2 hour without being disturbed. Sometimes that’s great. Other times, it’s maddening.
Conversely, there’s a fancy Starbucks in Los Feliz that has outdoor seating, a lot of snooty hipsters, and an unspoken “we’re all working so zip your pie hole” atmosphere. I go there when I want to concentrate and get as much done as possible. Either way, one of my favorite places to work is a coffee shop.
What to bring
- Wallet (it’s entirely uncouth to sit without buying one item every hour or two)
- Headphones if you don’t want to be interrupted
Public or university libraries
Do you know what gets me about a library? The smell. Seriously, if I could be buried in a library, I totally would do it (though the whole decomposing flesh thing might disrupt the olfactory pleasantries). Most libraries are open to everyone and, unlike coffee shops, you don’t have to buy anything to hang around all day.
The studious vibe of libraries is a favorite of many writers. I, personally, like to find my writing peace amidst a pile of chaos, but I love to go to libraries to read. When I need a break, I peruse the stacks of potential and add books to my list of things I want to read during my lifetime (which is so long I couldn’t read it in ten). Whether you’re reading or writing, a library is the perfect (and free!) place to get your writing work done.
What to bring
- Headphones if you plan to watch any videos
- Your library card (if you have one — if you don’t, you might as well get one!)
Your friend’s house
This one sounds odd as well, but I love to write at my friends’ houses. I have some pretty fancy friends who have some pretty fancy houses (and back yards). But, fancy or not, a new view is a new view. Most of your friends will probably welcome the novelty of having fresh, creative energy in their house and you will get away from anyone in your own four walls who might be driving you up one of them.
When my husband is too much of a distraction for me, I call my friend who has given me the code to the gate that leads to her back yard, let her know not to call the cops when I enter, and head over to lounge on her chair overlooking the pool. I actually get a lot done at my friend’s place, but I have to make sure not to get water on my laptop if I decide to take a lap in the pool.
What to bring
- A host/hostess gift every now and then — I like to bring a bottle of wine every few months or so to say thank you
- Sunscreen if you’re outside and swimming stuff if you’re lucky enough to know someone with a pool
Even the best writers need a little change of scenery every now and then. Swapping up your usual writing spot, even for a few hours, can spark creativity and give a little oomph to the monotony of writing from the same location. Whether you go to a friend’s backyard, a botanical garden, or your local coffee shop, I highly recommend you give writing in a new location a chance.
*** Please note that you should follow your local safety advice on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when you are in public places or around other unmasked people.