20 Worst Places to Write (and Why They’re the Best)

July 5, 2024

1. Porta-potty

    • It’s gross. You want to get out of there. You know there’s a line. There’s nowhere to wash your hands. There’s two squares of toilet paper left. Somebody’s number is staring back at you. A fly or two want your attention. Make a deal with yourself: write 10 sentences and then you can leave. What can you come up with under that type of pressure?

2. School pick-up line

    • The great debate: do you leave the car on for the A/C or turn it off for the MPG? You care about the environment and the state of the world because the kid you’ve been waiting 20 minutes for will inherit it. But there’s still another 20 minutes, and you know they’ll complain about it being hot. Take this conundrum and turn it into a poem.

3. Getting a haircut

    • You look horrible. The cape makes your face look weird and detached. Your glasses are off so it’s even worse; your face looks weird and detached and blurry. You know they’re cutting off too much, but even if you say something, they can’t put the hair back. If you move your head too much, they jerk it back. You don’t want to start talking because your usual stylist is out. Running the risk of this stylist reading over your shoulder, write out what you wish you could say to them.

4. Whole Foods

    • Oh, eight dollar avocado, how I wish my wallet was as green as your insides. Snobby bleach blonde women refusing scanners graze their quinoa. Ten types of almond butter but the peanut butter selection is pea sized. The flowers smell divine but a man picking a bouquet out for his mistress is hogging the area. What is worth writing about?

5. Your kid’s violin recital

    • They suck. You know they suck. They probably know they suck. Every other parent and every other parent’s kid knows they suck too. But these kids have been practicing all year. As bad as they sound, they sounded worse all those months ago. Your headache is already raging, and the white-hot shame from the stage makes the auditorium muggier than it usually is. What is there to be said about showing up?

6. Your mom’s living room when it’s been too long since your last visit

    • This depends on how old you are. Not because your mom will be less upset if you have more things to do day-to-day, but because she’ll be upset about different things. If you’re in college, why would you go to study group when you could do flash cards with your mom? If you graduated, why would you go to a job interview when you know you’ll have to move away from her to take it? If you’re in your twenties, why did you say yes to the wine she offered? There’s no right thing to say. Try to find it.

7. Opening night of a new movie

    • Oh, yeah. Everyone is dressed up and ready. There’s a buzz in the air and no open seats. Wait until the action really starts ramping up. And then turn your flashlight on and start writing because you don’t even know what this movie is about. How much can you write before someone drags you out?

8. Petco cat room

    • Every one of these has a crazy cat lady that will only call the cats “kitties.” She’s probably sporting some cat regalia: earrings, shirt, shoes, pin, hair clip. Maybe it’s a fully feline fit. There’s a pang in your chest because it’s truly horrible to see all the cats caged up. But there’s also an unsettling feeling in your stomach because the lady seems territorial. Find a spot to sit, get a notebook and a kitten. How long can you stay in there before she asks you to leave?

9. Food court at the mall

    • There’s no redeeming qualities about it. All the food smells mesh into something just south of vomit. It’s too loud. Babies crying, teenage boys roughhousing, teenage girls gossiping, old people bad-mouthing the youth. You’ve already tried all the free samples and have determined they’re all horrible. All the tables are vaguely sticky. The floor too. Set down some napkins and then your laptop. Soak up all the sensory details and put them in a doc. Then go home. Cry happy tears on your couch because you never have to go back.

10. On the plane next to a toddler

    • Who doesn’t love kids? Even when they’re cranky because boarding disrupted their nap. And they’re hungry but nauseous so they refuse to eat. And because they’re nauseous every few minutes they gag a little. They have no concept of personal space. They want to be involved in whatever you’re doing, no matter how many times their parent scolds them. You type; they want to type. You get out a pen and paper; they want to scribble. What can be made from this collaboration?

11. A wedding you’re not sure why you were invited to

    • Maybe it’s your best friend from fourth grade. Or your ex from sophomore year of college. Or your boss’s cousin. Or the barista from your third favorite coffee shop. Whatever the case, you’re there. You’ve committed. You showed up, and you can’t leave yet. Somebody’s grandparents are at the table next to you, and honestly, you’re not sure they can hear you when you try to talk to them. Or they’re ignoring you. You’d text someone about it, but there are no bars. Open your notes app and spill your guts. (Bonus: write about a wedding you’d love to attend.)

12. A windy beach you drove too long not to sit on

    • There’s sunscreen in your bag and all types of towels. You’re sitting on a beach chair with a few matching ones around you. Your swimsuit is also matching. Your sunglasses are on even though the umbrella is doing a good job of keeping the sun out of your face. But if you take your sunglasses off, you’ll be temporarily blinded from the sun. The water is too dangerous to go in. It cost a workday’s worth of gas to get here. And weeks to get the time off. Might as well stay until the ice in the cooler melts. Or at least until the cooler is empty. What can you come up with before you give up and pack up?

13. Target dressing room

    • You’re not sure if you really look that bad or if it’s just the lights. Everything you tried fits differently even though it’s the same size. The hum and buzz of the lights is kind of driving you crazy, but it’s better than hearing the same song for the thousandth time. Your socks are mismatched, and you feel kind of shameful looking at them. You haven’t put your own shirt back on because you’re sweaty from trying on jeans. You were certain you put on deodorant before you left the house, but now you’re not so sure. What is there to say about the way you feel right now?

14. Waiting for a job interview

    • You graduated with a 3.9 at a decent university and an okay major. You worked your butt off to walk the stage and walk the walk. But now’s the time to talk the talk. You applied to this job three months ago and almost forgot about it. But yesterday they said you can come in for an interview. Now you’re here in a room full of people that look way older than you. Everyone looks busy. Except you; you’re just sitting there looking nervous. Get out something to write on; maybe this will ground you.

15. Stuck in the elevator

    • You’re alone in there. You don’t know if this is worse or if it’d be worse to be stuck in here with other people. You feel claustrophobic and alone, but at least nobody will see you freaking out. You clicked the emergency button and went through the process of asking for help. All there is to do now is wait. The button is blinking, and there’s a beep every few seconds. What can you write about to keep from freaking out?

16. Ten-year high school reunion

    • You don’t really know what’s worth mentioning and what’s not. Some people have kids, some have multiple degrees, some even have multiple properties. You were having fun when this started two hours ago. But now you’re kind of sick of seeing the people you were ready to never see again. Your favorite English teacher isn’t here to talk to instead of your peers. Your best friend is across the cafeteria talking to the girl you guys said you’d never talk to. What can you say to make this sound better than it is?

17. On hold

    • The not-so-smooth-jazz is the worst thing you’ve ever heard. At this point, you’re willing to deal with paying for this subscription every month if it means you’re free from this. Your whole day is ruined. You were supposed to go out for brunch, but you were just put on hold and hopeful it’ll be quick, so you rescheduled to lunch. You were supposed to shower and get ready, but how can you do that? What if you don’t hear the person come back on? You can’t start a show or movie for the same reason. The timer on the call says 1:54:07. What can you get off your chest before it hits two hours?

18. Dinner party at a fancy restaurant when you’re the first to show

    • Ah, group plans. Why make them at 7 when it’s 7:30 and you’re the only one there? It’s a nice place; the waiters are dressed up, and the head chef is making rounds. There is only so much bread and overpriced lemonade you can order before people start side-eyeing you. What is there to do other than spam call your friends? Find a way to make yourself look important and busy: write!

19. Getting a colonoscopy

    • Growing up comes with a lot of horrible side effects. This being one. What do you even talk about? You can’t crack a joke because you’ll get scolded for laughing. You don’t want to ask personal questions because you don’t want to get any more personal. You don’t want to ask what they’re looking at because you’re afraid of bad news. You probably can’t have your phone or a paper with you. But you have your thoughts and plenty of time. Get thinking.

20. In the middle of your stats final

    • It is what it is. You got the grade you got in the class, and this is the final stretch… The final stretch being 30% of your final grade. Do you keep stressing and trying to answer questions, or do you stop here? Will your B+ be fine, or do you really want that A-? Your GPA can take it, can you? While you debate, start writing on your scratch paper. Be sure to write around the maybe-wrong formulas you wrote down when your exam started. Either you decide to keep going and scrape by an A- or you have something to do to pass the time.

Post Author