The best place to write a book!

We tend to think authors write books in romantic places.

We imagine sweeping vistas and cabins and sunsets worthy of Instagram. Or we imagine bustling city coffee houses, perhaps Paris and a jaunty hat.

Both images are wrong.

The writers I know and love don’t write somewhere sexy.

The environment is not necessarily charming.

It’s not beautiful.

The only thing it is, is functional.

It’s a spot they can create in. A spot they can focus in. A spot they can hide in.

We all want to find a perfect space to chase our dreams, but that’s garbage. The best place to work on your dream is wherever you can.

Quit waiting.

I wrote my first book in a Burger King. Why? It was a ghost town. I could hustle. You don’t go to Starbucks to write. You go to Starbucks to be seen.

Quit it.

 

59 Comments
  • LarryTheDeuce
    Posted at 04:13h, 11 December Reply

    Jon, it sounds like you had it your way when you wrote that first book.

    • Jeff
      Posted at 10:56h, 11 December Reply

      Nailed it.

    • brady
      Posted at 19:10h, 11 December Reply

      10 points to Gryffindor.

    • Ben
      Posted at 13:30h, 12 December Reply

      hahaha!! Love it.

  • Theron Mathis
    Posted at 05:29h, 11 December Reply

    John,

    I love it. I write in all kinds of crazy places, wherever I can steal a couple minutes or two or 30. My book was mostly written in a car waiting for kids at stables riding horses, and on cold uncomfortable bleachers in a fluorescent filled basketball gym.

    Keep Writing

  • David Mike
    Posted at 06:19h, 11 December Reply

    I have been writing at home during kids bed time while the wife is at life group. Sometimes I write at work during lunch. Slow and painful but getting there.

  • Lolly
    Posted at 06:25h, 11 December Reply

    The 90’s flowered couch was great inspiration. All good things must end…Love Your Mother In Law

    • Casey
      Posted at 07:17h, 11 December Reply

      There’s a story in there Lolly. . .

      • sharon
        Posted at 19:51h, 24 November Reply

        I think it was a lttlt rude, butt yes, I personally do tend to write in any place I can. Butt sometimes a place is a bad place.

  • Casey
    Posted at 07:20h, 11 December Reply

    My first book was written on my lunch break in a McDonalds and in my car. I’d get to work 30-45 minutes early to avoid rush hour and then write. Thanks for the reminder to steal the minutes because there’ll never be a perfect time or place to get it done.

  • David Johnston
    Posted at 07:57h, 11 December Reply

    I do some great planning in my Jeep on my lunch break. There’s nothing like planning photo locations, hikes, and spreading out paper in a one foot radius while accidently honking my horn due to lack of space. It’s very quaint though.

    • Katy
      Posted at 11:54h, 11 December Reply

      Quaint! Ha!

      I can so completely relate to this, though. I often clear my head by driving to the beach and brainstorming on a legal pad rested against the horn, which, inevitably, goes off when least expected. Nothing compares to the bewildered looks from passing pedestrians while I try hard not to make eye contact…

  • Sheldon
    Posted at 08:38h, 11 December Reply

    I needed to hear this…thank you sir!!

  • Matt McWilliams
    Posted at 08:45h, 11 December Reply

    You should be a BK commercial. Maybe the lonely weird looking king guy writing. Hmmmmm…ad of the year…

    The best place to write is the nearest quiet computer. Or notepad. I stopped making excuses. Now I write. A lot.

  • Sherry
    Posted at 08:57h, 11 December Reply

    I go to local restaurants during their slow time — usually between 2-4 p.m. and get a booth and spread out –the staff at that time are a little thin but friendly. I have gotten to know some very nice people and ask about their story. I have accomplished a few goals in those two hours –some writing, getting to know people who hardly get noticed and more subject matter for my writing. I also make it a point to leave a big tip because working the slow shift is not too profitable.

  • patricklmitchell
    Posted at 09:08h, 11 December Reply

    I think a new hot spot might be a Miami Marlins game.

    • Matt McWilliams
      Posted at 18:52h, 11 December Reply

      Don’t forget the Jaguars.

      I heard that two people broke into a car in Jacksonville and left tickets to the upcoming game.

  • Nick
    Posted at 09:11h, 11 December Reply

    I wrote the first draft of my book in a McDonald’s at 5am over the course of several weeks. Same reason. Open 24 hours. And a ghost town except for the 5 old folks who came in for coffee before 9am.

  • Ronne Rock
    Posted at 09:18h, 11 December Reply

    Ain’t no romance happening on my sofa upstairs. But it does have a nifty pull-tab thing that makes it a recliner, and a window where I can stare and think. And my laptop fits perfectly on the armrest. Writing and I meet there on a regular basis for dates.

  • Jon Stolpe
    Posted at 10:20h, 11 December Reply

    We all know is was about the onion rings and flame grilled burgers. πŸ™‚

    Starbucks and the local book store have actually worked for me, but you’ve definitely given me something to consider.

  • Otto Rockett
    Posted at 10:30h, 11 December Reply

    I gotta say you’re wrong, Jon. Not everyone writes at Starbucks to be seen. Some write there because the customer base is inspiring and the baristas are friends and occasionally give free drinks.

    • LadyTam
      Posted at 13:29h, 11 December Reply

      I write there because it smells like coffee and inspiration. ^_^ Just love it!!

      • Lady Tam
        Posted at 10:00h, 13 December Reply

        ..but fast-food joints are still too stinky, loud, and uncomfortable for me. πŸ˜› Rather my sofa or chair at home in peace than that.

    • Kelly Levatino
      Posted at 07:55h, 12 December Reply

      Yeah, I write there, too. I guess it’s possible I’d be more productive at Burger King, but the atmosphere of Starbucks seems to inspire me quite a bit.

      I think it has less to do with where you write and more to do with consistently writing in the SAME place. Maybe even at the same time of day. I have a hunch if we do this consistently, we train ourselves to be creative in that spot at that time, to the point that if we went to our writing Starbucks’ with no intent to write, but, say, just to have coffee with a friend, we’d find ourselves itching to write…

      I dunno, can we get a scientist on this?

      • Lady Tam
        Posted at 10:02h, 13 December Reply

        Probably. Human behavior is notoriously re-programmable.

        That being said, I’ve tried to write on a schedule, but between interruptions and unexpected life events, it usually doesn’t work out.

  • Anthony Rex
    Posted at 10:39h, 11 December Reply

    You are to BK what Jared is to Subway.

  • Crystal @ Serving Joyfully
    Posted at 10:40h, 11 December Reply

    haha…I love this because my writing spot is Dairy Queen. I live in a tiny town–definitely no starbucks. And it’s the best option.

  • Holly
    Posted at 11:29h, 11 December Reply

    I usually write in mt office. I’ll scribble notes on a scrap piece of paper until I can wrap my head around things. Sometimes, I’ll start writing in my head while vacuuming at the church. Or when I’m laying in bed at night.

  • Joseph Lalonde
    Posted at 13:16h, 11 December Reply

    Yup, so true. I locked myself in my home office while I chiseled away at my eBook. Out of the way and peaceful.

  • LadyTam
    Posted at 13:27h, 11 December Reply

    But some of my best work is done at Starbuck’s.. πŸ™

    Plus, there’s one super-close to my house. I like the smells, the sounds, and the energy. I don’t know anyone there (and I’m pretty introverted), so I don’t go there just to be “seen”, TYVM. πŸ˜›

    Anyways…I can’t write in a messy place. Despite being horrifically unorganized, if my work space is messy – and usually, by proxy, ugly – it’s not inspiring in the least.

    I’ve tried writing in fast-food joints. Too loud, too rude, too stinky, no outlets for power, uncomfortable seating…just isn’t the place for me. If I just had no choice at all, I guess I’d take it…but I’d really rather not! (Of course, this is part of the reason why I prefer actual cities to one-horse towns. :P)

    When I make my first million (HAH!), I’m-a gonna get me that cabin in New England overlooking the coast. Because why not??

    • Lady Tam
      Posted at 09:59h, 13 December Reply

      You know what, I forgot something: Most of my writing was done at work in between breaks at my old job (there was a lot of down time), and on the sofa really late at night when I can’t stop thinking.

      But I still PREFER a warmly-lit, organized room. Or a coffee shop. πŸ˜€ (Coffee or tea needs to be involved SOMEWHERE.)

  • Frank V.
    Posted at 14:11h, 11 December Reply

    Authors differ dramatically on writings spaces. Find one that works for you and go for it.

    Oh, what’s Starbucks? πŸ˜‰

  • Donald McAllister
    Posted at 14:47h, 11 December Reply

    Distractions are a killer. Burger King is a smart idea.

  • Dale Carroll-Coleman
    Posted at 16:27h, 11 December Reply

    Heading to Long John Silvers.

    • Rachel Cosio
      Posted at 21:13h, 11 December Reply

      yes.

  • WIll
    Posted at 18:35h, 11 December Reply

    Right on the head. I wrote my first book in a recliner watching the Duggars on TV. My second book I wrote while I was at my noisy desk at work. My third book…everywhere that I can’t hear someone calling my name. πŸ™‚ Great post.

  • Jonathan Guenther
    Posted at 18:40h, 11 December Reply

    I’ve actually gotten a lot of work done at Starbucks. I think it all depends on your mindset going in (and how many people you’ll know there). But *if* you’re going to Starbucks mainly to be seen and hoping to get a little work done on the side, I couldn’t agree more.

  • Jen Krausz
    Posted at 18:46h, 11 December Reply

    My living room couch after lunch while the kids are at school works for me. I need quiet and concentration, and that’s about the only time and place I can get it. Although in December it is extremely difficult, let me tell you!

  • Jay McCall
    Posted at 18:57h, 11 December Reply

    Thanks, Jon, for the great message. I was first introduced to your work through my brother-in-law who gave me a copy of your book, Quitter. I really appreciate your approach to writing and life, and you’ve been a huge inspiration in helping in me know when the time was right to quit. And, now, you’re helping me take a second look at the humble space in the corner of my house I now call an office.

  • Rhonda
    Posted at 18:59h, 11 December Reply

    Oh, on the contrary. I’m a stay-at-home parent/work-at-home parent. When I’m able to get out, I absolutely go to the coffee shop to write, and not be seen.

  • Jean
    Posted at 19:11h, 11 December Reply

    I write in a local coffee shop naearly every morning – Grounds for Celebration in Beaverdale!

  • Brian
    Posted at 19:25h, 11 December Reply

    “Change of place + change of pace = creativity.” I think Mark Batterson says this. Wherever. Whenever. But get out of the sameness.

    • Terry Weaver
      Posted at 20:06h, 11 December Reply

      Brian totally agree! That’s my deal. My home office is awesome. But I can only move the furniture around so much.

  • Terry Weaver
    Posted at 19:58h, 11 December Reply

    The right answer is different for everyone.

    The lie we can’t believe is that there is a magic place anywhere to write. My current writing rhythm looks a lot like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles right now.

    For me the answer is lots of places. Im ADD so I try and change the scenery. I plan a day week to write away from the office. My best ideas and content comes when I am watching my dog take a dump in the neighbors yard. Thank God for Evernote.

    I write at Starbucks because I have a gold card and get free refills. All of the ghost town places I prefer to write keep going out of business!

  • Liz
    Posted at 20:05h, 11 December Reply

    As others have remarked, I, too, turn out a serious number of pages at Starbucks. I work best in a comfy chair (put me at a desk or table, and the creative juices dry up), and I’m motivated by the free refill I allow myself when I hit my quota!

    • Lady Tam
      Posted at 10:06h, 13 December Reply

      Oddly enough, boredom and lack of anything else to keep me busy inspires me more than anything else! lol

      I…really don’t know why.

  • Hannah
    Posted at 20:11h, 11 December Reply

    Haha! I’m actually at Starbucks writing at the moment, and it’s also pretty desolate… It’s also 6:11 PM, so that might have something to do with it…

  • Tim
    Posted at 21:36h, 11 December Reply

    i like writing at starbucks, but only because coffee.
    But Chili’s would probably be better. Or anywhere else with queso…

  • Julie
    Posted at 06:46h, 12 December Reply

    My bed is the best place to write for me! Quiet, free of distraction, and comfy. I can set my large thermos of sweet tea on the night stand and go at it for hours!

  • Sheila
    Posted at 07:28h, 12 December Reply

    Burger King or McDonald’s? That’s the question. And Jon, I LOVE Burger King but you just indicated it was a ghost town. Will that drive more business there, or just more writers? Idk but Whopper vs. Big Mac. Which do you think would win in duel? Don’t EVEN say McRib. πŸ™‚

    • Lady Tam
      Posted at 10:08h, 13 December Reply

      Whopper, because BK has less of a chance of screwing up my very specific order. (lettuce, TOMATO, onion. That’s ALL.)

      I haven’t tried to order an actual burger at McD in a long, long time, because of a rash of not understanding “Meat and bread, and that’s IT” when I was a kid. Maybe they’re better now, but I’m not willing to try it.

  • Kristin
    Posted at 15:12h, 12 December Reply

    My husband has done some of his best writing on the pool deck of cruise ships, especially on our Mediterranean cruise. I will keep encouraging him to write amazing things as long as he keeps taking me on cruises πŸ™‚

  • Elizabeth
    Posted at 13:04h, 13 December Reply

    So true! Starbucks is for people watching – not writing. Of course, because I am a mother to 4 children, whom I homeschool, writing for me either happens late at night or in the midst of chaos during the day when I can steal a few minutes.

  • ThatGuyKC
    Posted at 09:33h, 17 December Reply

    Amen! I’ve been guilty of this. Starbucks is great to be seen or to people watch. I’ve gotten some okay writing done w/ headphones in at Starbucks. The lighting, coffee & minor ambient noise that leaks through is helpful.

    However, a truly distraction free environment (no people, tv, phone or social media) is the best place to write. Get your butt in the chair and get it done.

  • Graham Garrison
    Posted at 15:18h, 17 December Reply

    The 2 places I thought would be ideal for writing — Starbucks and home — turned out to be the worst. Starbucks is loud. And home with 3 little kids means constant super hero battles, which I don’t mind, but saving the day really cuts down on word counts. Have found a sweet spot of early in the morning at work before office hours.

  • Jeff Ilseman
    Posted at 12:34h, 19 December Reply

    If I wrote at Starbucks or Burger King, I’d be broke and fat.

    I write mostly at home where I can be broke, fat and in my PJs.

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