Five of my Favourite Places to Write -- Ruth Leigh

Welcome to my blog! I make a point of never missing a deadline, of planning every aspect of my busy and successful life and ensuring that I am never caught out by anything. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that I live such a gorgeously inspirational life. People often approach me (once they’ve got past my security – note to self, should I think about firing my bodyguard?) and say, “Ruth, how do you do it? You make it all look so easy.” Then they humbly request an autograph and a selfie. #soblessed #secretofmysuccess 

OK. We’ve known each other a while now, so I hope and trust that rather than clicking your tongue in disgust and vowing never to read another word I write, you are chuckling at this ludicrous intro and looking forward to one of my trademark Funny Blogs. 

It’s 12.36 on 12th August. I am very, very busy indeed. I got back from holiday late on Monday evening, turned myself around on Tuesday and then went to Belgium for the day so my son could visit his girlfriend on Wednesday. Due to roadworks and diversions, we were awake for 22 hours straight. 

Today I am writing a whole heap of property pieces and getting ready for friends coming over tonight. Approximately ten minutes ago, I realised that today was the day before my AE blog is due. Hence the Isabella M Smugge-style intro. 

OK? Let’s go. 

Since 1st January this year, I’ve been a full time writer and any time I leave home for a significant amount of time, I take my laptop with me. Back in the day, I only wrote on my lap or at the dining room table, very occasionally at a local café when our rubbish rural Wi-Fi went out. These days, however, I have more opportunities. Here then are my five favourite places to write (and why). 

1.    On trains. Goodness me, I love a train ride. The longer and more complex the better. My lovely friend the acclaimed writer Wendy H Jones has been kind enough to give me several opportunities to speak and sell books in Scotland and this has resulted in delightfully long train journeys from East Anglia to the wilds of Scotland. Well, not the wilds exactly. But quite a long way up on the right. Why do I love a train? Because you’re alone and yet with many random others. The scenery is constantly changing, you can have food and drink and yet do no washing up, you can listen in to fellow travellers’ conversations (see Point Two) and be left alone to let the muse descend. I have written property pieces, think pieces, fundraising articles, op eds, blogs, book reviews and novels on trains. I find the rattle and hum soothing and inspiring in equal measure and when I get off at the other end, I’ve added very considerably to my mental storehouse of facts and impressions.

2.    On a plane. Now this is a bit of an anomaly. I don’t like flying at all and rarely do it. I flew to Shetland last summer and have flown to Europe twice in the last ten years. That’ll do, thank you very much. That said, while you can’t really whip your laptop out when you are aloft, the dedicated writer should always have a notebook and pen at hand. From the minute you join the long queue to have your fluids examined in minute detail and the contents of your suitcase messed up, delicious, juicy, mystifying conversations are filling the air all around you. Stressed people are yelling at each other, poor things. A frenzied row between two tall, slim, attractive, beautifully dressed Americans pushing a small baby in a pram erupted in front of me at Stanstead last summer. The details are still in my head and will be used at some point. People speak loudly above the noise, ideal for noting up. As I’ve mentioned before, an especially fabulous exchange made its way into my notebook as we sat waiting to take off at Edinburgh. A mother and her teenage son were having a chat which went like this.

Him: “But Elliott’s got an iPhone 12! It’s so unfair!”

Her: “You’re not getting an iPhone 12 and that’s that.”

Him:“But Elliott ….”

Her: (with a significant look) “And we all know why Elliott’s got that phone, don’t we?”

 I will never know why, but what a gift! Thank you Elliott.

3.    In a place where your first language is not widely spoken. For me, in the last couple of years, this has been France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. In October half term 2019, I wrote one of my first blogs for More Than Writers and felt creativity fizzing as I listened to the locals chatting and drank in the Breton landscape. I’ve just returned from eastern Andalucía, where I wrote gazing out at the sparkling blue sea and in the air conditioned marble luxury of the San Juan de los Terreros Cultural Centre, surrounded by local art. In Switzerland, I was inspired by the snowy mountains and the faint smell of fondue drifting up the valley (how could you not be?) and on Wednesday I wrote in the soothing surroundings of my son’s girlfriend’s stepmother’s tea room in the pretty seaside town of De Panne. Around me, French, Dutch, Flemish and English were being spoken while a constant stream of holidaymakers walked past. All these places were unfamiliar to me and they woke up some slumbering neurons. Changing what you hear and who you see is a gift to the eager writer.

4.    In a café or anywhere else with free Wi-Fi and plenty of coffee on tap. I don’t spend nearly enough time writing in cafes. I see other writers doing it on social media all the time. Pose your coffee cup and laptop prettily and chuck in some hashtags and you’re good to go. My earlier points about eavesdropping and not having to do the washing up are particularly true of this location.


5.    Where you always write. There is an awful lot to be said for familiarity. The Palace of Creativity has been operational for only a few months but the minute I unlock the door and walk into my dedicated writing space, shared with many boxes of books, piles of books and my ready packed craft fair set up, I’m ready to go. I’ve graduated from a laptop balanced on my knee to this and it’s taken quite a while. I can read, write and contemplate in here and it’s where pretty much all of my freelance writing and my last novel was written. 

Where are your favourite places to write? I’d love to know.

With many thanks to my fellow writing friend Fran Hill who came up with the idea of this blog at the eleventh hour..

Images from Pixabay and writer's own

Ruth is married with three children, one husband, assorted poultry and a cat. She is the author of “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge”. “The Continued Times of Isabella M Smugge” is available for pre-order in September and in the shops in October. Ruth writes for a number of small businesses and charities, reviews books for Reading Between the Lines and blogs at ruthleighwrites.co.uk. She has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok at @ruthleighwrites and at her website, www.ruthleighwrites.co.uk.


Comments

Fran Hill said…
This is your fellow writing friend speaking! My favourite place to write is in a cafe with all its splutter of coffee machines and clatter of plates. The noise and chatter somehow helps me to get into the zone. At home, alone, in silence, it doesn't work half so well, which is why even at home I might have a radio on in the background. I also like writing on trains but am a bit self-conscious about getting out my laptop, married as I am to someone who finds other people's 'tapping' torturous.
Ruth Leigh said…
Hello and thank you again! There is something about a cafe - I think I should probably start scheduling time in one so that I can get more inspiration. Funnily enough, I've experimented with background music and the radio and it distracts me. I have to have silence (well, not complete silence. Birdsong and the sound of my husband making me a cup of tea is acceptable).
Susan Price said…
I've long found almost anywhere but my own home conducive to writing. Cafes and pubs, yes-- when I've needed to get some writing done, I'd often hold my own 'pub-a-wrimo' by going for a walk and then to a friendly pub, where I would write solidly for at least an hour. The landlady once said to me, "You're always working! Don't work-- enjoy yourself!" She didn't know I was probably enjoying myself more than I could anywhere else.
But I've also found the words come easily on various ferries to Hebrides, Inner and Outer; in a pre-historic ring-house on a Shetland moor, in a West Country pub near the sea, in many different B&Bs, in empty churches... almost anywhere but home.
Ruth Leigh said…
I find that too, Susan. It's the different surroundings and stimuli. At home, there's always a wash to hang out or dusting to do. I love Shetland! We went last year and I did so much writing. A pub sounds fab! I've never tried that.

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