The Motel Writing Binge

For the last seven years, I’ve worked full-time from home, and by the time my work day is done, I’m ready to get the hell out of the house. Most evenings, Saturday afternoons, and Sunday mornings, I camp out in one of the many coffee shops on the east side of Pittsburgh. But even this routine is wearing on me.

So I decided to do something new and adventurous: the Motel Writing Binge.

This is where I go somewhere—sometimes for research, sometimes just to get away—find a cheap motel, and binge-write for an evening and a morning.

Research in Clarion and Oil City, Pennsylvania

For instance, last weekend, I needed to do some research at Clarion State University for novel #6. A friend who lives in this quaint little town took me for a tour of the campus while I snapped pics with my iPhone and we caught up with what’s going on in our lives. Here are a few photos from the campus.

Clarion University Clarion University

Clarion University Clarion University

After dinner, I fired up my laptop in the junky little room and wrote til 11:00 p.m. (This particular Super 8 Motel room was more like a Crappy 2…)

Writing at the Super 8 Motel

I woke at 5:30 a.m. the next morning, snagged some unspectacular yet complimentary foodies and COFFEE in the motel office, then went back to writing til 10:00 a.m. Then I traveled to Venango College (now a branch of Clarion University) and checked out the tiny campus. (My protagonist in novel #6 gets his nursing degree there.)

Venango College Grounds Venango College

I drove in to Oil City, which I’d never been to before. I discovered the Venango County Museum of Art, Science, and Industry, so I made a donation and learned about the historic oil boom in the area—and about Rattlesnake Pete.

Angel of the House Pennzoil Signs

They happened to be holding a street fair, so I listened to the live music, visited the vendors’ booths, and bought some jewelry. Then I devoured half a barbecued chicken and came home pleased with my weekend adventure and the work I got done.

At the Terrace in Brockway, Pennsylvania

I had no research to conduct in this little town in northern PA, but I always pass through there on the way to my parents’, so I parked my carcass at the Terrace Motel on Main Street last night. Better digs than last weekend’s Super 8. I brought leftovers with me, which I ate cold. (I’m a tuff sumbitch.) Then I wrote for three hours on novel #6.

Terrace Motel Main Street (PA 219), Brockway, PA

I woke at 6:30 a.m. this morning, hiked across the empty highway in the drizzle and got myself some breakfast and a huge COFFEE at the Sheetz. I wrote til 9:30, when I threw my stuff in the car and then drove further north to my family reunion, where I laughed too loud and ate too much. Breakfast of Champions

My take on the motel writing binge experience

I would say that anything that jolts me out of the familiar routine helps to fuel my creativity.

Motel binge-writing doesn’t cost a whole lot ($46 for the Terrace), but it’s not free either, so I want to get my money’s worth. I have all my basic needs met (bed, bathroom, reading lamp and electrical outlet), but there are none of the distractions that seem to lure me away as they do at home. It’s hard to believe I get distracted by things like laundry and watering the plants, but I do. Usually it’s Facebook…

If your cheap motel is in the middle of nowhere, there’ll be nothing out there to distract you, either. Except maybe for the yahoos in the room next door. Just make sure you bring shampoo, any writing resources you may need, and that you have access to COFFEE if you need it.

I had a couple of great weekends, and I can’t want to do it again. If you’re considering this option, all I can say is, give it a try!


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9 Responses to “The Motel Writing Binge”

  1. M R Cosby Says:

    This looks like a great thing to do! I too work from home, and look after the children. I get out to cafes when they are at school; but I like the idea of your motel travels. One day I might do something similar. Has it fired your creative juices?

    • LeeAllenHoward Says:

      Hi, Martin. As I replied to Rachel, anything that gets me out of the familiar routine helps to fuel my creativity. It doesn’t cost a whole lot, but it’s not free either, so I want to get my money’s worth. I have all my basic needs met (bed, bathroom, reading lamp and electrical outlet), but none of the distractions that seem to lure me away as they do at home. And if your cheap motel is in the middle of nowhere, there’s nothing out there to distract me, either. All I can say is, give it a try!

  2. Kevin A. Ranson (@KevinARanson) Says:

    That’s kind of awesome. I’ve traveled a lot and use a lot of locations I’ve been to myself, but I’ve never set out to do exactly what you just did. I may have to try it!

  3. Rachel Blahgs (sometimes) Says:

    Sounds perfect to me. Those of us with jobs need to think this way. Look at every opportunity (especially out of our routines) as opportunities to binge-write. Inspiring!

    • LeeAllenHoward Says:

      Thanks for your comment, Rachel. Anything to get me out of the rut of putzing around the house is good. And when I’m there, I mean business because I paid some money (though not much) to be there.

  4. Dave Says:

    I agree with everyone else. Sounds like a wonderful way to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve been telecommuting for the past 16 years and haven’t gotten out of the house nearly enough 🙂 I really like the idea of stepping out for a couple of days and devoting myself to some writing time unencumbered by life’s routine. Thanks for a great post …

  5. How I Write Novels | Lee Allen Howard Says:

    […] scene plans, I’ll write like gangbusters from beginning to end. I’ll probably go on a motel writing binge or […]


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