Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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March 13, 2024

Guardians of Creativity: Writing Safely in Public Spaces

by Susan Watts

Writing in public places, such as coffee shops and libraries, offers a unique blend of inspiration and potential challenges. As both a martial artist and author, the combination of creativity and personal safety comes naturally. However, for others, safety may not be a major consideration. Drawing from my experience as a black belt and self-defense seminar instructor, I offer these tips for writers to balance safety and creativity.

The Art of Location Selection: Choose Well-Lit and Crowded Spots

Just as a martial artist assesses their environment for safety, writers should be discerning about their chosen writing spaces. Select well-lit and populated areas where the flow of people ensures a reasonable level of security. Avoid secluded corners or dimly lit spots that might pose safety risks. Your writing sanctuary should inspire creativity without compromising your well-being.

Strategic Positioning: Sit Facing Entrances for Enhanced Awareness

In martial arts, practitioners learn the significance of positioning themselves for optimal defense. Similarly, when writing in public places, sit facing entrances and exits. This strategic placement not only allows for a clear view of your surroundings, but also enhances situational awareness. Observing who enters and exits establishes a mental map of the immediate environment, helping you to focus on your writing without neglecting your safety.

Engage and Disengage: Knowing When to Look Up

Immersing yourself in your writing is crucial, but so is periodically disengaging to assess your surroundings. Establish a rhythm—write for a set period, then take a moment to look up and scan your environment. It's a dance between creativity and vigilance, ensuring you remain connected to both your work and the world around you. Designate breaks in your writing session to focus solely on your surroundings. Use these moments to reorient yourself and ensure your safety protocols are intact.

Make a habit of being mindful of those around you and any unusual behavior. Trust your instincts—if something feels off, it probably is. Being mindful of your surroundings helps protect your creative flow from unexpected disruptions.

Guarding the Arsenal: Keep Valuables Secure

Martial artists safeguard their weapons, and for writers, the laptop or tablet is a formidable tool. Be mindful of your belongings—keep your laptop, bags, and personal items within reach. Avoid leaving them unattended, as distraction can provide an opportunity for opportunistic individuals. By maintaining control over your possessions, you safeguard both your creative work and personal safety.

Digital Fortifications: Use Lock Screen Features and VPNs

Just as martial artists fortify their defenses, writers should fortify their digital presence. Enable lock screen features on your devices to protect your work and personal information. Use strong passwords or biometric authentication for an added layer of security. When working on public Wi-Fi, avoid accessing sensitive financial or personal information. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) for added security, ensuring that your digital activities remain shielded from potential threats.

Strategic Alliances: The Buddy System for Writers

In martial arts, strength often lies in alliances. Likewise, writers can benefit from the buddy system. If possible, work with a writing partner or a friend when venturing into public spaces. Having someone by your side not only deters potential threats but also provides a safety net, allowing you to immerse yourself in your writing without undue worry.

Emergency Preparedness: Establishing Plans and Contacts

Martial artists rehearse emergency scenarios, and writers should do the same. Familiarize yourself with the location's emergency exits and procedures. Ensure someone knows your whereabouts and can contact you in case of an emergency. Share your location or schedule with a trusted friend or family member, establishing a safety net for unforeseen circumstances.

Trust Your Intuition: The Writer's Sixth Sense

Just as martial artists trust their instincts, writers must trust their intuition. If something doesn't feel right, don't dismiss it. Whether it's a subtle discomfort or a gut feeling, your intuition is a valuable tool for detecting potential threats. Trust it and take appropriate action to protect your safety.

Safe Transitions: Traveling to and from Public Places

When traveling to and from public places, use reputable transportation services and inform someone about your itinerary. Ensuring a safe transition to and from your writing sessions adds an extra layer of security to your overall experience. If you are traveling by car, remember these important safety tips:

  1. Always lock your car when you leave it.
  2. Leave your car in the safest place possible. Park as close as you can to your destination, and park under lights.
  3. When you return to the car, have your key ready to get in.
  4. Before getting in, make sure no one has tampered with it. Look under the car, and in the back seat, while approaching your car.
  5. Avoid leaving valuables in the car.
  6. Always know where you left your car.
  7. When walking to your car, avoid walking close to parked cars or other places where people might hide.
  8. Once inside, lock the doors. Crank up and drive away.

Remember the BAIL System

B = Buddy System - make sure somebody knows where you are.

A = Awareness - be aware of your surroundings. Be observant and critical, identifying potentially dangerous areas and opportunities.

I = instincts (trust them!).

L = leave - if you feel uncomfortable. If something just doesn’t feel right, get out of there!

Writing in public places can be a liberating and inspiring experience, but prioritizing safety is essential. By incorporating these tips, you can immerse yourself in the creative atmosphere while remaining vigilant about your well-being. Choose your writing locations wisely, practice situational awareness, and fortify your digital and physical defenses. With a mindful approach, you can navigate public spaces confidently, crafting your words with both creativity and security in mind.

Do you ever write in public places? What are your favorite venues? What do you do to ensure your personal safety?

About Susan

Since her earliest recollections, Susan Watts has been crafting stories. As a child, she loved nothing more than opening a blank notebook and embarking on a new adventure through writing. While she enjoyed reading, creating her own stories brought her even greater joy. Under the pen name Michelle Allums, she authored a young adult urban fantasy titled, The Jade Amulet and is currently writing the sequel. Her short stories are also included in the anthologies Christmas Roses and Forever and Always. She will be a presenter in the upcoming writer’s symposium “Polishing Your Mirror: Self-Care for Writers” on March 23-24, 2024. 

Susan has dedicated over four decades to training in multiple martial arts styles and holds the impressive title of a five-time US Karate Alliance world black belt fighting grand champion. Through her karate school, she is able to impart martial arts and life skills. Susan also incorporates her martial arts knowledge into her writing. An avid triathlete, she keeps in shape by running, biking, and swimming. She lives in the country with her husband, where they raise animals and enjoy being outdoors. Susan also has three grown children and numerous grandchildren. In addition, she is a CPA and VP of finance for a company in her hometown. 

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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16 comments on “Guardians of Creativity: Writing Safely in Public Spaces”

  1. What great suggestions, Susan! I was taught long ago to always figure out the quickest exit in case of fire (especially in dark theaters) so I do it pretty much automatically but I hadn't thought about some of the other things you've mentioned.
    Are you going into more detail in your symposium next week?

    1. Thanks for your comments. Yes, I will be discussing that in more detail in the Self-Care for Writers Synposium on March 23-24. I will have one session on psychological threats and one session on physical threats and how to recognize, prevent, and handle them.

  2. As someone who digs writing in public spaces, I love this post!

    And as I read through, one of my main thoughts was: this could double as a guide for single women who are dating. I always told someone where I was going and let them know when I got home.

    1. Thanks! Yes - the tips here can apply to a lot of situations. The key is being aware and prepared.

  3. Spot on advice and wonderfully thorough! As a former law enforcement officer, it was easy to see you hit all of the essentials. And thank you for reminding all of us to 'BAIL' ... well done!

  4. What great advice! I love writing in coffee shops but it’s SUCH a pain if I need to visit the restroom—I have to pack up all my belongings before leaving the table.

    My sister and I often go together for this very reason.

    Thanks for the tip to sit facing the door or exit. I don’t always do that. And also to trust my instincts. I think as women we’ve been brought up to be polite, that sometimes we don’t always heed those hairs on the back of our necks.

    1. Yes - we need to not be afraid to stand up for ourselves if we perceive something to be wrong. Thanks for your comments. 😊

  5. Thank you for this great post, Susan! I have written in coffee shops, libraries, and a local restaurant. The restaurant was my favorite because they knew me and would set me up in a booth where I could see the door. I felt safe there because I knew the waiter was keeping an eye out for me as well.

    Great reminders! I also especially appreciate the reminder to trust our intuition. This is something that is much too easy to dismiss.

  6. A necessary post! Write with a friend. Yes! As a lover of and coordinator of two different weekly write-ins for the O.C. Writers group, I am surrounded by like-minded authors focused on their projects. Not only does the group dynamic provide the necessary security blanket, the energy of all those creatives powers the muse and provides endless encouragement. I'll be sure to share your post with the groups next week. Several of them are solitary writers, too.

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