Writing In Public


Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary thing.

Most people think of writing as a solitary occupation, with romantic visions of a starving writer holed up in an ivory tower away from the world creating reams of prose and poetry. There are times when we writers do need to be alone with the written word. But that is not always the case.  Sometimes writing and be a very social event.

I write in public. Writing in public is not something non-writers would consider helpful to the writing process. To be honest, I’m not as fast putting word-to-paper in public as I am in my little room at home, but it does garner some interesting conversations.

Why do I write in public? The reasons are many but here’s a few:

It’s a NaNoWriMo thing.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and participants will gather at coffee shops, libraries, and schools to write together for a “Write-In.” The goal is to complete a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in 30 days. Can it be done? Yes, it can. I’ve done it now nine times. Now some of those first drafts may never see the light of day, but I did write them. At a write-in, everyone is working on their own masterpiece in a public space. The gathering may vary from two to twenty people, each typing or hand writing their stories. Not talking to each other, just writing. Then every once in a while there will be a question; for example, in one story I had a character named with the very British name of St. John (pronounced Sinjin) and the question was how do I tell my readers how to correctly pronounce this name? One gentleman in the group suggested that I have someone mispronounce it so the character could then correct him. Problem solved. Back to work! Then there will be the challenges – someone, usually the Municipal Liaison (ML), will yell Word War! And everyone will write frantically for the next ten, fifteen, thirty minutes. The person with the most words during that time wins.


I am the ML for my region, so it’s my job to schedule these write-ins. Plan the challenges – sometimes it’s use this weird obscure word in the next scene or your main character’s house just burned down, now what?  I also provide the prizes, usually small trinkets. I show up early and save the table. No one has any problem finding me, I’m the person in the Viking helmet. When someone comments on my headgear and asks why am I wearing it while I’m typing, it gives me a chance to explain NaNoWriMo and invite them to join in the fun.

As I write this blog, I’m at a write-in, but we’re calling it a “campfire” because July is Camp NaNoWriMo. Earlier while setting up and chatting with the barista, Cory joined in the conversation. He’s a NaNo from Northern California, who just moved into the area. So we pulled up a chair for him, and he joined in the writing, working on his own story.


It’s a change of scenery thing.

Sometimes I get bored looking at the same four walls in my writing room. So I pick up my tablet and move outdoors. This being in a new location can be a distraction, and I may get less writing done, but I find inspiration in watching people and listening to the birds.

Some of my outside writing is being in the location of the scene I’m currently writing. For example, for a short story I’m currently working on, it takes place in small mountain town not far from where I live. I spent some time visiting that town. I sat at the local coffee shop, sipped coffee, and wrote the scene that takes place booth next to where I was sitting.

Sometimes I see things that give me ideas for stories. Sometimes I talk to those around me, mostly they’re curious to see someone typing in the park or on the beach. Now I’ve learned what the speech pattern of someone living in that community sounds like and can try to imitate it in print.

It’s things at home are too crazy thing.

Let’s face it working at home isn’t always easy. And even though I have a writing space, things still intrude. The dogs need attention. My husband is watching his beloved Giants trounce the Dodgers and being loud enough the team can hear his support all the way to San Francisco. The phone won’t stop ringing with unimportant calls.

Sometimes my writing room isn’t the fortress of solitude I need it to be. So off to the coffee house or the library I go. I find an unoccupied corner, settle in, and write.

Yes, sometimes I’m interrupted, but I don’t mind. It gives me a chance to talk about writing. To explain why I have pictures of cowboys and Victorian princesses on my notebook – my current novel in progress. To talk about NaNoWriMo and invite them to sign up. To encourage them to check out my friend’s newly published book.

Yes, I write in public. It inspires me. It lets me be social. I can share writing with others.

Until next time, remember the door is always open, and the kettle is always on.

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