I'm a firm believer in the "going to work" school of thought when it comes to writing...or for that matter, any home based work. The gist is that you have a dedicated space which is only for work, and thus when you go to this area your brain gets into 'work mode'. This is why I never write on my desktop PC. I can't. My desktop is a Fallout Machine. That's the place where I waste eight hours building a replica of my house in Minecraft. I've tried producing writing there. It doesn't work.
The amazing, Atlanta-based writing group 10 Days Before... did not introduce me to the idea of commuting to write, but it did show me what I could do in the 'write' atmosphere. My highest ever word count was 2200 words in an hour, and that was achieved at one of 10DB's write in events. It sold me on the concept of hunting out places to go to write.
So off to Google I go, trying every search term combination I can think of to try and find reviews of local watering holes written from a creative point of view. Do they have power outlets? What about just the right amount of background noise? Which are too loud to hear yourself think? Where's the wifi? Who's been to these places and tried to write there?
I found the results sadly lacking. Outside of New York City and London, no one seems to have compiled any sort of 'best writing places in X' type pages. So this is what I'm going to set out to do here. I'm going to go to random places in the Itchen Valley area--specifically Winchester, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, and Southampton--and write there for a few hours to try and get an idea of what it's like to be there as a writer and how the place functions as a creative space.
My first stop is a well known landmark in Southampton's cultural scene...
An eclectic cafe on a Mission from God™ and fighting the good fight. From their website:
We are a not-for-profit, Community Interest Company, a gallery, arts venue and cafe which has been running since January 2008 in Southampton, UK. The Art House was founded by the four directors, Bik, Jani, Ziggy and Nina and is staffed mainly by volunteers. We have three main aims:
– To promote the Arts.
– To enhance our local and global community.
– To encourage positive, healthy & sustainable living.
I can't recommend this place enough. It's an interesting atmosphere, full of bright colours, local artwork and crafts, and the occasional Doodle Book lying about. They also offer low key music, not too loud, and are just busy enough during the day that you can get some stimuli without being overwhelmed. They also offer free wifi, and a quiet space during the day, which demonstrates a commitment to giving people a creative space.
A taste of the decor, and a Doodle Book!
They stay busy, playing host to local musicians, a storytelling group, and even the local Makers scene. What this means for us hermity writer types is the opportunity to be a fly on the wall in so many different scenarios and soak up information on a broad range of topics. Maybe even discover a new hobby?
The staff are friendly and welcoming, as well as largely volunteer-based. They're happy to help newcomers and lone travellers settle in, and the place is a magnet for solo questers. It strikes me as a venue which strives to be a safe place for everyone.
The food is very good, and almost entirely vegan, with many gluten free options. I had some nachos while I was there, and an England's own brand of cola, Fentimans. The prices are on par with a restaurant in the city centre, believe my nachos were around £5-6, total was around £8.
They also offer a lower cost option in their Magic Hat Tea Bar. This is a self-serve, by donation alternative to expensive drinks out. It's part of their belief that public spaces are vital to mental and emotional wellbeing, and the lifeline this can give to those who are struggling financially...as a lot of writers and other artistic types are.
"Wow! I'm super stoked to go support this amazing business!" You chirp, eyes large with optimism. "Where is this magical place?"
Ah, well, it's conveniently located in Southampton's city centre. They're on Above Bar Street, close to the Guild Hall. Easily accessed by rail or bus, though parking a car nearby can be an endeavour unto itself. As a nondriver myself, I can't comment on this aspect, but I hear tell it's a beast.
Pulled from their website:
Tuesday 11am – 10pm
Wednesday 11am – 10pm
Thursday 11am – 10pm
Friday 11am – 10pm
Saturday 11am – 10pm
Sunday 12 – 5pm.
Lunch is served 12 – 4pm and supper is available 6 – 9pm
So what're you waiting for?! Get out there and absorb some of the local flavour!
What're your thoughts on writing in the field?
Do you have a venue to suggest for this project?
Let me know!