Finding Your Garret

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by Samantha Fenton

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.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Samantha Fenton. Samantha lives in Ridgefield, Washington on a beautiful ten acres filled with many beloved pets. Samantha is currently striving to traditionally publish, as well as enjoying her passion for golf. 

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20 thoughts on “Finding Your Garret”

  1. I find an airport terminal to be a surprisingly good garret. There’s something about being in suspension between flights — a kind of psychic escrow — that makes me want to write. Unless, of course, the only seat I can find is the one right in front of the cranky toddler with the flu.

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  2. It is worthwhile to note that some obscure libraries are open to the public, for instance a tiny theological seminary has this great old-school looking library with claw-footed chairs. Also, most university libraries are open to the public. Just a thought!

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  3. I find I can take notes just about anywhere, but need somewhere quiet for *writing* writing. At the moment the best I can do is my bedroom, but in the next few months I’m hoping I might get a shed that I can commandeer for the purpose…

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  4. Don’t discount the noise-cancelling benefits of, well, noise. Sometimes silence lets me hear my inner critic loud and clear, but in a public place, the noises kind of drown her out. It doesn’t always work. I guess I’m the sort of writer that needs different garrets for different projects. Come to think about it, I’m supposed to be writing now. What sort of garret should I seek…

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  5. Being visually impaired I dont experience visual distractions which can, I am sure be a distinct advantage at times. I use the guest room in my flat for most of my writing. I have an ancient self-assembly desk which does, none the less remain sturdy and is ideal for my writing. When visiting family in Liverpool (I live in London), I often write on the dining room table or, if it is nice weather in the garden. Kevin

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