Friday, 5 November 2010


By Richard Jay Parker
I'm writing this as I write everything - alone. I'm not tragic (although I'm sure some would disagree) and I'm not a misanthrope but I do always have to work in solitude.

Other writers can work at their laptop in a coffee shop, with their family screaming around them and in the busy office when the boss isn't looking. This is often out of necessity but some writers actually thrive on having frenetic activity around them.

A friend of mine writes with heavy metal blasting throughout the creative process. I just couldn't do it. I need quiet - it's the only way I can hear the minutes zipping worryingly by.

Does a writer's environment dictate the sort of material they produce or do we all just learn to adapt to our workspace wherever it is?

During my time in TV I wrote scripts to order in offices, studios, on location, in hotels and in (lots of) pubs but I've never retreated to a rented cottage/house etc to write a book. I have friends who swear by it. Some do it for a weekend but I think I'd be hopeless. I'd think of it as a holiday so the last thing I'd want to do is work. I hear this happens more often than not - especially when a group of writers get together. Six months would be good.

Personally I do my best work when I'm not distracted and home is the place where the environment is familiar enough for me to imagine I'm elsewhere. Does that make sense?

So if I want to go somewhere interesting, exciting, and dangerous - I don't go anywhere.
Re last week's blog - thanks for your responses about X Factor for writers. Bizarrely I found this piece by Katie Allen in The Bookseller this week.
Read more about Richard's work at


  1. I confess, I am one of those for whom heavy metal fuels my creative process. \m/ \m/

  2. I need quiet. I write most often between 11pm and2am or 5am and 7am. Internet unplugged and coffee or water. Basically no distractions. I can edit anywhere. In fact if it is noisy and still stay focused tells me that the content can keep me engaged

  3. Oddly, I'm a noise lover. When I studied for a Management Degree with the OU, I sat in Starbucks reading my books and making all the relevant notes, etc. If I'm doing my day-job, I need noise - I listen to my ipod or have TV on in the background, even if work is manic! I've tried working in the quiet and it just drives me mad. Give me noise any day, but it has to be my selected noise, not anyone elses ok!

  4. My time is so limited, I frequently have to ignore my external environment and write whenever I can wherever I am. Bizarrely I find it easier to block out the sound of talking than music.

  5. I am easily distracted by music,screaming,television etc.If I'm alone and can be in the own recesses of my own solitude,I may spark creativity.I'm with you!!!

  6. I like to think I can write pretty much anywhere, and actually prefer a little background noise (but not gossipy women sitting right next to you in a coffee shop!). My favourite conditions are at home with some gentle classical / jazzy music bumbling away in the background. I did go on an Arvon course once, which was a little like those 'writing holidays' you describe, a countryside setting and it was actually very inspirational.

  7. Hi Elizabeth - I enjoy music too much to be able to divide my brain between enjoying it and writing. Perhaps it's because I can't multi task.

    I'm with you MysDawg - need total quiet for writing but editing is a different matter. Can do that almost anywhere.

    Horse for courses, Nattie. Interesting how it's only certain noise you can tolerate though. Thanks for dropping in.

    Hi Leigh. Necessity is often what dictates your writing environment. If I'm falling behind I often find myself catching up on public transport but it's not ideal for me.

    Thanks, anonymous. Are you a man?

    Hi, Michelle. Sounds like you're also selective about background sound. A lot of writers don't have the luxury of a perfect environment all the time so it's good that you can adapt.

  8. Nattie B - Isaac Azimov found the noise and bustle of public places energising.