5 Things -- Places

It's time for another 5 Things post!

This is a series in which I let my readers get to know me, my writing process, and my influences a little better by listing my top five things in a particular writing-related category. Today I'm talking about PLACES. Specifically, places in which I write best, where I feel the most inspired and productive.

Every writer has a head space they need to get themselves into in order to start writing. For some, the habit is so strongly developed that they need only to say, "I'm going to write right now," and they sit down and do it. Others need to have a morning, afternoon, or nighttime routine to get started. Some need to have a pot of coffee brewed and at the ready. There are endless ways to get the creative juices flowing.

For me, atmosphere is everything. I'm a morning person, and I'm much more creative when the promise of a new day and new opportunities are upon me. Ideally, I like to get up as early as possible, make myself a cup of coffee the approximate temperature of molten lava (molten java, amirite? hahaha, I'm sorry), and settle down in front of a computer -- always a computer, because my brain works so fast, if I don't get my thoughts down quickly enough, they leave me. These are the tools I need at all times, and as long as I have them, I can take them into any atmosphere I want. So then, atmosphere: what is the best one for me? Like I said before, early morning light is what I need. The soft glow of a rising sun is peaceful and energizing at the same time, full of promise. As far as setting, I have narrowed down the five places I write best in. Give me a sunrise, a cup of coffee, a laptop, and plunk me down in any one of these five places, and you've got one productive writer on your hands.

1. The Outer Banks, North Carolina

I'm a North Carolina native who used to complain about the plainness of my state in my youth. The older I got, however, the more I discovered and came to appreciate about this place. The Outer Banks is by far my favorite discovery. This string of islands on the outermost edge of NC's coast is full of history and beautiful views. As a native, I've known about this part of the state for my whole life; as someone who grew up in the northwestern part of the Piedmont, however, I was more familiar with the mountains than the coast. The first time I took a beach trip to somewhere other than South Carolina and stuck my toes in the comparatively immaculate sand of the Outer Banks' beaches, I was hooked. Even at the height of the on season, the area is far quieter and more relaxed than your standard beach tourist destination. There are no clubs (that I know of) and very little nightlife, and draws more families than young people. To me, it's the perfect place to get creative. I snapped the above picture with my Canon on my most recent trip to the Outer Banks, and I think it captures the atmosphere perfectly. Almost every morning at dawn, I was out on the private dock in the back of our rental home, taking in the sunrise and the quiet sounds of the water lapping the shore. I wrote notes for my latest novel and was reminded of the inspiration behind We Are Eternal, which is set in coastal North Carolina, less than an hour from the Outer Banks and includes several scenes set in different places in the area. I love the water and feel most at peace listening to waves and smelling salty air. With this place right in my own backyard, I'm always ready to start writing.

2. A coffee shop

I love coffee. Love, love, love coffee. And not even for the caffeine -- I could (and regularly do) drink decaf... I just love the taste of it. My favorite ice cream flavor is coffee. I have a whole area in my kitchen dedicated to the making of my morning Joe. You get it. More than drinking coffee, though, I love settling down with a nice hot cup -- preferably a pretty cup, but I'm not picky -- and getting to work. A coffee shop helps you kill several birds with one stone, providing WiFi, wall outlets, tables, an energetic atmosphere, and, yes, coffee. Unlimited coffee, really; the longer you sit there, the ruder it is to loiter without contributing more money. When I had a lot of free time, I could spend hours writing in a coffee shop. There were people around, but they didn't bother me, providing me occasional distraction when I needed to tear my eyes away from the screen or paper for a minute and rejoin the real world. The smells, the sounds (which I frequently canceled out with music), and the semi-structured environment allows me to be around all the things I love, which makes me happy, which makes me productive. It's my go-to out-of-the-house setting.

3. A bookstore

Similarly, any bookstore with tables, chairs, and beverages permitted is a happy place for me. Barnes and Noble is a clear option, considering most have a Starbucks franchise inside, but indie bookstores are just as good as long as I can bring my travel mug. I love being around books, and any place in which I can envision one day seeing my name on a shelf is pure motivation. Bookstores are full of people like me, people who love to read and love hunting for something they can get lost in. Being surrounded by that like-mindedness is inspiring.

4. The library

My day job is a library assistant in a public library. From the first time I stepped into a working role seven years ago until now, I've reveled in the peace of being in the stacks. And even though I already spend five -- sometimes six -- days a week in a library, it's one of my favorite places to write. If I need a book for reference, it's right there on the shelf, much like the bookstore, except these books are FREE. (Support your local library, folks!) Libraries also tend to draw in others who are working, whether it's for a job, school, or a creative project, and, once again, being surrounded by like-mindedness gets me going. Typically (i.e., pre-COVID) you're free to loiter in the library for as long as you please, considering it's a public space in which you're not expected to spend any money. And the quiet... the quiet! Bookstores and coffee shops, though I love them, are bustling and often noisy. Though I hate fulfilling the shushing librarian trope, I've done so in order to keep order from the other side of the counter. In a library, you can get as much done as possible, with as many resources at your fingertips as you could imagine. If it weren't for the general "no open beverages" rule, it'd be my ultimate writing space.

Which brings me to space No. 5:

5. My office

Yes, I'm including an actual picture from my actual house. Here, I make the rules, set the tone, design the space, can be as loud or as quiet as I want, and -- most important -- I don't have to wear pants. As you can see, it not only includes a work space with a computer, wall art of a Shakespeare quote, and shelves (all of which cannot be seen) full of books, but also an array of colorful children's toys. That's because this room, immediately claimed by me as my office when we first bought our house, has become a playroom for my children. Although admittedly a bit begrudgingly at first, I began moving my oldest's larger toys into the room right after his first birthday party (where all the larger toys came from) because we'd run out of room in the living room. Over the years I've come to enjoy sharing my space with the toys, as they represent the way my life is now, my proud status as "mother" alongside "writer." Both my children and I get creative here; although their own books are on bookshelves in their rooms, my oldest likes to browse my shelves, as well as practicing writing on his easel and "typing" on the computer. He shows his younger brother the imaginative games he's come up with, rediscovers all his baby toys with him, and the two of them are constantly laughing and squealing behind me as I sit at my desk. To me, that's home. Most occasions, however, I work alone in this room, because I have to concentrate. While editing We Are Eternal three years ago, I had the most time to myself at night after my son had gone to bed, so I'd bang away the hours on my desktop until two, three o'clock in the morning. But my preference, as previously stated, is to get started as early as possible when I can work in the morning. I make my coffee, sit on down, and work until about noon. Out of all the places I've mentioned, this is the easiest place to write in, because it's home. It's where I can be fully me, fully present, and see the fruits of my life all around me. It also shows me what I'm writing for: to provide life for my kids, to fill my space with more books -- my books, to enhance my creative space, and to keep connecting to me and my passion. It is certainly not the fanciest place, but it's mine.

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