7 Simple Rules to Writing in Public

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Admit it: you’re not a writer unless you’re seen writing in public. What’s just as bad as not being seen writing in public? Being that person in public who attracts the wrong kind of attention.

Get readers to notice your words, not your rude behavior, by following my 7 rules of writing in public etiquette:

Rule 1: Pick the Right Writing Spot

If you pick the wrong spot to write, your mood goes south and may affect your decision-making. Evaluate your possible public writing spots accordingly:

  • Does noise bother you? Or do you prefer background noise?
  • Where will you have sufficient writing space?
  • Where can you stay for an extended period of time?

Should you write at a sandwich shop? A library? A café? If you’re unsure, try a variety of public places and see where you can create the best writing workspace in public.

Rule 2: Pay Up

If you’re at a private business, chances are they’re selling food and drinks. Don’t take up their space to write in public if you’re not a paying customer. If you’re on a budget, ask for hot water and bring your own teabag, but make sure to leave a considerate tip.

Rule 3: Don’t Hog Space

You are one person writing. How much space do you really need? If you’re in a place that’s about to be hit by the lunch rush, choose a smaller table and offer your extra chair to larger groups. That way you’re writing in public with a clear conscience!

Rule 4: Be Quiet

Why are you making noise anyway? You’re supposed to be writing! So end your call, stop laughing at that chat message, and plug in your headphones (if you’re writing in public where the music is bad).

Rule 5: Your Belongings Are Your Responsibility

If your stuff gets stolen, it’s not the fault of the business or that customer you asked to watch your laptop while you went to the bathroom. If you have to leave your space, then pack up and bring your stuff with you–even if it means losing your spot. Don’t create a temptation for thieves.

Rule 6: Be Clean

Leave the workspace as clean as you found it. That means throwing away wrappers, wiping away liquid off the table surface, and pushing in chairs. You can even spend five seconds admiring how well you tidied up the workspace.

Rule 7: Write

How can you establish your writing in public rep if you’re playing around on your social networks? Turn off all distractions. You came here to write, so set a goal, a time to reach that goal, and start writing.

Think back to the last 5 people you saw making a nuisance in public. How were they not a good patron? Do you have the same bad habits? Writers have a great reputation as quiet and polite, so let’s maintain it!

What rules do you want to add? Share your rules below!


  1. I agree with your points, especially rule 2. If it is a great place to hang around and write you want to help them stay in business too. 95% of the time, I leave the laptop at home and take the old pen, paper, and pencil. I find I get much more done that way. I find Panera Bread to be a good place to write.

    1. What better way to look like a writer than to scribble down your story by pen? I share your paper-and-pen tactics because I write faster this way and forget about the fact that people might be staring at me. When I get lost in my own story, I know that I’ve made great progress that day.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

  2. You summarized my personal guidelines so perfectly, it’s spooky. And here I thought I was alone in my finickiness.

    Rule 2 is the main reason I avoid any restaurant where I might deprive waitstaff of tips if I were to hang out for 60-90 minutes at a stretch. I’ve found fast-casual dining spots work best (count me as another Panera fan) — no TVs in the lobby and plenty of smaller, cozier tables for loners like me. If they have free refills on coffee, bonus!

    1. Ambiance is everything when it comes to writing! The smallest distraction can send us writers into an unshakably fowl mood. What is so great about writing in public is that you can switch up the place you write at so that one setting never gets boring or drained of its inspiring qualities.

      Fast-casual dining spots are also great spots because of their large dining space so that it’s not TOO obvious that you’ve been writing for hours. My favorite spot lately is a large used bookstore in town with a cafe inside. After I reach my writing goal, I reward myself by perusing their bookshelves.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

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