Writing Books Outside and Other Myths

Windowsill by amttholland from FlickrThis past weekend was filled with a horrible rainstorm, and then one of the most beautiful days ever. Unfortunately I forgot that it was a three day weekend when I was making up my work schedule, and so I had to sit inside on that most beautiful day ever. I always say, the best part of writing is that I’m my own boss. And the worst part of writing is that I’m my own boss.

While texting with a friend, I mentioned that it had been glorious outside when I went to grab my coffee, but that I had to get some writing done so I was currently only viewing the weather through my window.

My friend’s response: “Go write outside!”

I get this a  lot. That I should go outside on nice days to write. That I should go drive around the country and write from hotel rooms. That I should be fine taking a trip for a week somewhere with friends because I can write anywhere.

These notions, for me, are big fat lies.

I have never been able to function properly as a writer of books anywhere but at a desk where I am bored and everything is familiar to the point of absurdity.

Go outside? Please. I’d sit down and stare at my laptop for about ten seconds, then get distracted by clouds and fall asleep. Drive around? My god that sounds utterly romantic, and then when I stopped for the night I’d spend three hours trying to figure out how to set up my work station in an unfamiliar room and then fall asleep. Write on a trip? I doubt my laptop would ever leave its bag.

Simply put, I don’t want to write outside. Not books anyway. Oh I could journal or probably knock out a blog post or sketch down some ideas, but books?


Writing is book is the most singularly unique task I have ever performed in my life. Books appear over the course of a year, not a day. They require constant chipping away. They need to be slugged through even when they seem like the dumbest thing ever written. They are, ever so strangely for something that produces wonder in its readers, boring and tedious work.

The rushes of ideas, the conception of characters, the realization of what is going to happen next? That can come while sitting by an idyllic pond, or while on the road, or while hanging out with friends. That can come anywhere.

But the writing of a book? I’m talking about stringing over 100,000 words together, usually upwards of 200,000.

Think about that. If you were to type out 200,000 words in a straight line it would be over a mile long.

That…doesn’t seem to capture what I’m saying.

It’s a lot of words is what I’m saying and flashes of inspiration do not equal word count. Typing diligently every day equals word count.

So, no. I don’t go outside to write. Frankly I can’t go outside to write. I need routine, I need mundane, I need minimal surprises because when it comes time to actually write a book, it stops being about the beauty of the cathedral.

At some point, you have to start laying brick after brick after brick.