Credit image: Source: Carl Spitzweg, “The Poor Poet.” Oil on canvas, 1839

Unlike the painting above, a garrett isn’t just a closed, cramped and enclosed space below the roof of a building. It isn’t just a musty smelly attic either. It’s an environment where we as writers, with all our writing tools at hand, can achieve our greatest output.

When I first started to outline and write my story, I thought of only two things. Finding the time to write and making my word count goal. But I never wondered why certain days or times, influenced whether I made goal, went below or above it. Until now, as I’m writing this post.  Maybe it’s all in my head, but I have a harder time writing sitting on my comfy, beige couch.

It’s like how sports stars like to wear the lucky shorts to every game. It bolsters their belief that they can achieve a win and help boosts their motivation, allowing them to “show up” at every game. But how can a writer figure out what their ‘lucky shorts’ are? Where and when are we the most productive and engaged with our writing?

It’s simple. Just look back and review when you were in your writing zone. Note the time it happened, the environment, the place, etc. I’ve noticed that my creative output is at its greatest during the morning commute to work and at the library. Then there’s also my desk during my lunch hour or at night in my bed. For most writers, it’s at a cafe or coffee shop. Or even at home.

I couldn’t possibly stay in bed all day. Nor ride the bus all morning. Maybe when I’d have become a self-sustaining author I could afford such luxury. But I have work five days a week and children that needs my care 24/7. I can’t always get to the library as well. So what’s a writer to do when they can’t get to their garrett? Or what to do when their garrett has been compromised or changed because life happens? For example, what if that cafe goes out of business or is closed for renovations.

It’s times like these, when you have to be thankful for the technology we have today. You can carry around your laptop, ipad, Chromebook or whatever device you use to work on your manuscript, anywhere. So here are a few things I’ve learned that you can do to, to bring your garrett to you, anytime and anyplace:

  • Bring personal items that’ll help you both focus and relax. As well as won’t disturb others around you. I travel with 4 writing guide books, a notebook and my favorite writing pen everyday. I also like to listen music when I write. So I use my Pandora app on my phone and pop in my earbuds. Which reminds me, I have to buy new ones. PS. I’ve also turned my kitchen table into a desk and surround myself with all of these.

  • Bring parts of if you prefer, the entirety of your printed draft manuscript. It helps to clear and unblock plot/character/scene/continuity issues better if you can review it on paper than the screen. Also bring a notebook and pen to scribble on.

  • Make sure that the space is equipped with WI-FI. WI-FI is available everywhere nowadays, but you don’t want to find yourself in the place that doesn’t have it.

  • Look to see if the plug outlets are two pronged or three. If your device uses a three pronged plug charger but the building has the two prong outlet or vice versa, bring an extension cord.

In the end, you can recreate your garrett’s vibe and ambiance to work towards your best writing sessions, no matter the situation. A surrounding special to you, that maximizes your concentration. Allowing yourself to put your best pen forward.

As for myself, since my lunch hour is limited and often have distractors from coworkers and my phone ringing. And getting to the library is a rare event, I’ve made my kitchen area into my garrett, using my kitchen table as a very large and long desk. What about you? Have you identified your garrett? Do you think you can recreate and revisit those times, places and or events on a consistent basis? Or what’s your current writing environment like? And how do you cope with changes in that writing garrett? Please share in the comments section below.

PS The image below was taken at my work cubicle. Although you don’t see my trusty purple notebook (it’s off the other side of my desk), you see one of my four writing guides, The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. They’ve recently reached a 100k book milestone for their thesaurus writing guide series. And though it’s blurry and out of shot, I also have two writing/creative quotes pasted to my work desktop. “In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I’m writing. I just write what I want to write,” by J.K. Rowling. And “In order to grow your audience, you must betray their expectations,” by Hayao Miyazaki.


How I Learned to Find My Garrett

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