Writing Under Pressure

I need to get better at writing under pressure. And I don’t mean deadlines. Deadlines are a type of pressure, and I have been meeting deadlines as a writer for years. I’m proud of my record when it comes to that, in fact. The sort of pressure I mean is being able to write under less than ideal, or less than peaceful circumstances.

Only on a handful of rare occasions have I tried to write anything on my laptop in a coffee shop or a library. (Though these days, it seems coffee houses are more likely to be quiet. Seriously, whatever happened to library voices?) The times I did attempt this, I felt out of place, bogged down, and unable to focus, though I do find non-fiction easier to write outside of my routine than fiction though I don’t know why.

If I’m going to evolve as a writer beyond a certain point, I probably need to find a way to work when there’s noise, activity, and unfamiliar surroundings. (Or familiar surroundings that are not my home.) A good writer can write anywhere, right?

Okay, maybe not. Maybe I’ll never be able to compose an acceptable blog post, or the first draft of a good short story while sitting in the middle of Times Square. But if I can get to the point where there’s at least some tunnel vision to my writing task any given day, I can only benefit. A writer must write, and if I can limber up enough to write at least a little bit of something in the middle of slight chaos, I’ll be able to write more often. Like a track star who trains by running with weights on his ankles.

Plus, working at a cafe’ might occasionally open up my creativity in ways that sitting at my desk day in and day out cannot do. So I’ll probably make the effort to go to a cafe’ or the library once or twice in the near future, just to test and strengthen my ability to write somewhere else, with more noise than here at home.

And practice will be needed, believe me. I’m such a creature of writing habit, I’ve been using the same computer keyboard for about 13 years now. I’m somewhat used to my laptop because of how often I go to my sister’s house with it. And while her house is sometimes a bit chaotic, it’s nothing like a coffee house.

I’ll report on my progress in this endeavor as time goes on.

But know this…I’m still not going to drink coffee no matter where I end up writing.



  1. Personally, I’m not so sure you should worry about it. I think it’s more important to realize where and how you work at your best. Forcing yourself to try and write in situations where you are so obviously uncomfortable seems distracting, even self-destructive where the quality of the writing is concerned. Play to your strengths. Find out how you work best and keep doing that.

    A lot of us have this romantic image of a writer busily working away in a coffee shop, oblivious to the indie music blaring from the speakers, the people making lattes, and the conversations of the other customers. It probably comes from the idea that a writer’s work should be the only thing that matters, to such an extreme that s/he can block out even the most ridiculous amounts of white noise. I call that BS. If the work is the most important, create a space where you can give it your best attention and effort. Some people focus better with the drone of background noise. Others don’t, and there’s nothing saying you have to learn how. It seems like a lot of trouble to go to for no reason.

    Of course, the only time some people can write is in busy, stressful environments. That doesn’t make them better writers; it just means they can’t choose their writing space. Some of them might thrive on it, while others might prefer a quieter space. But if you know which you prefer and are able to choose that, then do what works best for you.

  2. I agree that I should do what is best for me on the whole. That is to say, I shouldn’t seek out a noisy coffee shop and try to write there, simply to pursue this image of the highly focused writer. I’m probably not that guy when it comes to writing anyway. I do think, however, that I might improve my ability to get down to business in my ideal setting, if I expose myself a bit more to settings that are different to my norm.

    Some baseball players practice by hitting golf balls instead of baseballs. The target being so much smaller than the real thing, they figure it improves their odds when they do hit the real thing. This method is not without its detractors, however. Many hitting coaches insist one should only practice hitting the exact type of ball you will hit in a game situation. Both point are probably valid to an extent.

    I don’t see myself doing it often, actually. But I want to experiment with writing in public a few times, just to be sure I’m giving it a fair shake. If it turns out to be more tolerable than it is now, I may have done myself a favor. But if I still end up hating it, I’m not really any worse off for trying it.

    • It’s a good idea to try, I guess. Keep us posted on how it works out.

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