Garret: a top-floor or attic room, especially a small dismal one (traditionally inhabited by an artist).
I once read a book on writing which mentioned “finding a garret.” I had not heard this term before, and didn’t quite know exactly how it related to writing. But the book had explained it as an area a writer can go to write perfectly uninterrupted and at peace. It’s a place where you can get mass amounts of writing done without distraction, it’s a place that’s comfortable and a generally nice spot to be at.
I think having a solid place to write is a good idea for every writer. Although, some writers are “nomadic”and can write wherever whenever, and that’s cool too. But for a lot of us folks, a “homebase” is a good thing to have.
By definition, a garret is an attic. But not all of us have attics (or pleasant comfy ones at that), and in any case, a writer may create/find their own special garret space. Here are some examples of possible garrets:
- A park bench
- Your car
- A table at a cafe
- Your local library
- Your guest bedroom
- Your bedroom
- A hammock
Of course, there are many more places that would work, as a garret is wherever you feel you can get the most (and best) writing in. And it is quite possible that setting up for a writing day in your bedroom will come with multiple interruptions – it all depends. I know that for me writing in a car will not work, that it just feels weird to be spending time in a car when not driving. Another thing I like to have is access to fresh air, which means my garret should have a window, or just be outside to begin with.
What makes a good full-time garret:
- You know you will not be interrupted
- It’s a place you want to be in
- You could spend a long time there
- It fuels your inner writer
- You can write in it
- You have easy access to it
What makes a bad full-time garret:
- It’s difficult to get to (an example being your friend’s house’s attic)
- There are lots of interruptions
- It’s too loud/too quiet for your liking (certain cafes may not be the best place due to constant distracting noise)
- It’s not easy to focus on writing
- If there’s anything you don’t like about it
So you’ve found a full-time garret that you can go to, but what about traveling? In cases where maybe your staying at a family member’s house, or you’re headed on a business trip, you’re going to have to be flexible and create a temporary garret.
Sometimes I have to go to my sister’s sports games. If she’s got basketball at a school, I usually sneak off and sit down somewhere in a quiet hallway. If it’s an outside soccer game, I may find some abandoned bleachers, or sit go in the grass somewhere. At times I decide it’s best to just stay in the car (no matter the fact that it normally wouldn’t be my first choice).
But say you’re staying at a family member’s house. Maybe there’s a cafe or library near by you could go to. Maybe they have a nice backyard you could write in for a couple hours, or there could be a consistently quieter part of the house maybe you need to go inhabit for the duration of your stay.
But – ah! – problem! Now you’re stuck on a plane or a bus for six hours and there’s nowhere to escape. In planes’ cases, they usually stay pretty quiet (especially when it’s a red-eye) and you may be able to squeeze in some writing time then. Or, bring some noise canceling headphones and do the best you can to block out all visual stimuli (and generally there’s not much to look at on a plane, so that’s good). Do the best you can to recreate that garret feeling. That could mean bringing a really soft blanket, playing some music, wearing comfortable clothes, etc.
In the end, a reliable garret is a great thing to be able to retreat to, but at times you need to be crafty and forge one.
What’s your writing spot?