Writing Away From Home: What Works, What Doesn’t

Taking your work on the road.

I just finished reading Melanie Brook’s “Where You Should—and Shouldn’t—Go To Write” article on Freelance Switch and have arrived at different conclusions than what she did. I’m not here to criticize Melanie’s viewpoint, rather to say this: writing away from home can work for you, but your experience can certainly be different from mine.

Places to Work

Melanie noted that writing at coffee shops, other people’s homes and at the park do not work. She also said that writing at colleges and universities, at the library or at a hotel can work. I have experience working at each of the venues mentioned by Melanie, so please allow me to explain what works for me and what doesn’t.

notebook manCoffee shops — As I write this, I am working at the Hope Cafe in Raleigh, N.C. I frequent this place approximately once per week, sometimes twice per week in the summer when my kids are home from school. This place is relatively quiet and, yes, I do get some interruptions. However, the “social” time here is typically very beneficial, allowing me to converse directly with other freelancers while still getting my work done. Tip: — Hard deadlines should be handled in a quiet place such as in your home office.

Other peoples’ homes — Rarely do I work in someone else’s home, but when the need arises, I arrange for this well in advance. This summer we’re taking a trip and I’ll need to bring my laptop with me. We’re staying with a family friend and she has already arranged for me to work from her home for one or more days, as needed. If her wi-fi connection isn’t up to snuff, I’ll go her apartment complex’s common area to gain a connection.

At the park — The closest I’ve worked in a park is to work in my park-like backyard. I still had a strong wi-fi connection as some parks offer, but it wasn’t getting online that was the problem. Rather, the ample supply of natural light did it for me even as I adjusted my screen to compensate. If you want to work at a park, fine some shade or go on a cloudy day. And, plan to work offline as an Internet connection can be difficult to access. Tip: — Bring along the sunscreen!

Colleges and universities — I tried to work at nearby N.C. State a few times, but Internet access was blocked to everyone who wasn’t a student or faculty member. I’ve worked at a few community colleges where Internet access was open, thus I’ve had mixed results with this option. I’ve learned never to work in a college library during exam time.

Library — My local library offers several branches offering Internet access. The only problem I’ve had here is that the seats may be uncomfortable or the desks aren’t suitable for typing. My favorite library is one where I can find a plush lounge chair sequestered in some obscure corner of the building such as a nook in the seldom-used reference section. Ah, such peace!

Hotels — Whenever I’m on a business trip, the laptop is with me. At hotels I seem to always enjoy excellent access to the Internet and can get a lot of work done. Melanie mentioned renting a hotel room to get the work done. I have yet to do that, but if there is ever a big project I need to tackle, then this option is a good one. Just hang the little sign on the door to remind the cleaning people to stay out! Tip: Internet access should be free with your stay and not a system that throws you out periodically.

Giving it a Try

If you haven’t given these options a try, what is stopping you? Hopefully, not someone’s opinion. In any case, if you have some ideas you would like to share or have some other feedback, then do tell.

See AlsoTaking it on the Road: Smart Tips for Freelancers


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  1. I think I don’t have any other better place like my own home. I have prepared a particular place for writing and whenever I sit there, words keep flowing.

  2. Matthew C. Keegan says:

    Jewel, that is what makes writing at home so enjoyable. A familiar and comfortable environment leads to productive writing without the attendant noise you get in public setting.