Where To Write In Dublin

Novel writing

Where to write in Dublin? It’s a surprisingly simple question, with an unnecessarily complicated answer. While its true that Dublin does have some excellent public libraries (Cabra springs to mind), their limited opening hours, open architecture, and attractiveness to folks who just need somewhere to hide out of the cold (especially true of the Illac center library), make them less than ideal writing spots.

I’ve always found it difficult to write from home, where it’s much too easy to get distracted by the web, gaming, movies, or the myriad of other tinkering opportunities littering every surface. My solution has been to use a ‘visiting reader‘ card for Trinity College library (Trinity graduates, post graduates from other Irish colleges, and some other researchers can apply for one, though I believe they’ve introduced a 20 euro surcharge). When Trinity librars is closed (all too often) I duck into The Library Bar, in the Central Hotel (just off Georges St). A warm, cozy, relatively quiet city centre pub which never plays music.

The Library Bar is the king of Dublin pubs, but it’s not always empty, and there’s only so much peppermint tea a human can drink. OK, caveat, I personally know people who call this into question. For me however, it gets expensive and bloaty to continually knock back pots of aromatic hot water in order to keep working. So what are the alternatives? Hot desking is out of the question for most writers, as the economics are geared toward the tech industry (translation, writing, like all arts, pays most of those involved really poorly). Although there may be cheaper options outside the city centre.

I put out the question on Facebook and Twitter and got a variety of replies. None are perfect for me, but they might all be of use to someone. I’ve editorialised here by listing (my) negatives and positives about each venue below the recommendation.

Kévin Salandini (of Dublin Board Games) – Winding Stair Cafe, Ormond Quay
Positives – Lovely book filled cafe.
Negatives – Tiny place, snooty staff, not really tenable to sit there all day.

Myles Denyer (of Myles Manley and the little People) – Accents Cafe & Tea Lounge, Stephens St (off Georges St)
Positives – Really plush, quiet, cheap tea. Probably the best place to write in town after the Library Bar.
Negatives – Plays muzak.
Updated Negatives – This place has become untenable. Staff repeatedly approach with dire warnings that ‘it looks like we’ll fill up later’, no matter how much is spent on their expensive iced drinks and hot chocolate. A shame.

Luke Holohan (actor, journalist and musician) – Fixx Coffee, Dawson St
Positives – Great hot chocolate.
Negatives – Really noisy and always full.

Naomi Elster (scientist, playwright and runner of Exchange Words) – The Tea Garden
Positives – Really chilled, great tea, amazing atmosphere – this place is unique in Dublin.
Negatives – Probably the most expensive tea in the country, like 8 euro a pop, and up.

Keith Grehan – Bernard Shaw, No Name Bar, Dice Bar
Negatives – All noisy and full after about five, I hope you like hipsters (or yuppies in the case of the ‘bar with no name’).

Stephen McConnell – Twisted Pepper (3FE)
Positives – Comfy, coffee is supposed to be the best in town, as are the chocolate cake things.
Negative – Expensive coffee / hot chocolate.

Maria Collison – City Centre Churches
Negative – Eternal damnation, seriously though, I wish I had the cojones for this one.

Jonah King (artist) – Project Arts Centre
Positives – Free Coffee???!??!
Negatives – Don’t you have to be in theater club mafia to hang out there?

Naomi Neu (music journalist) – Simon’s Place
Positives – Classic writing spot, cosey basement.
Negatives – Frequented by unusual number of oddballs, closes early, shut all Sunday.

Thomas Stewart (venture altruist) – The Gilbert Library
Postives – “Mandatory silence”.
Negatives – Closed all weekend and after 5.

Sarah Griffin (writer) – Uncle’s in The Moore St Mall

Pauline Curtin (comedian) – The National Library
Negatives – They turned me away the last time I asked for a readers ticket! Also, library hours.

Others

Cafe Nova in The Westin Hotel (off Grafton St)
37 Dawson St
Foam Cafe
Positives – 37 in particular is beautifully decorated, and standard city centre prices for tea.

So what would the perfect writing environment look like, for me? It would be quiet, as in no music. I personally don’t need food or drinks (well clearly, as a human I consume them, but I don’t need them floating inches from my face like delicious greasy demons). It would be warm and comfy, more academic than officious or decrepit (aside – is there a word for the design theme of an institution?). It doesn’t even need internet, although electricity would be a big plus.

It would need to be a) open 24/7, and b) a relatively disturbance free venue. If you have to continually order food, move around, or respond in some way it’s not suitable for the dense fixed bouts of focus needed for getting fiction done.

I think there’s a potential market here, as the space described doesn’t really match the cafe or pub spaces available in the city. A space purpose designed for writers, perhaps with an attached cafe, but charging primarily a flat fee, could easily get away with taking 5 euro a day for all you can sit and type service. This seems like something that would be eminently fundable though one of the Irish Kickstarter equivalents, if someone with a decent audience took up the baton. Or is this too specific to be popular? Do well off writers all have beautiful rented offices, while the majority potter happy at home. Your thoughts?

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6 thoughts on “Where To Write In Dublin

  1. There is also the ilac Center Library, though I find it can be distracting at times by people getting up from tables and the close proximity.to people at the table. Distracting

    The National Art Gallery. A great place. It is quiet, and creative. Only thing is if there is a tour group it can be distracting too.

    In a park, Merrion Square Park. This is better than Stephens Green. It has a sense of wildness about it. I am reminded of Victorian times.

    Royal Hospital Kilmainham. In the courtyard outside. Its ok if its not too chilly. or even in the Gardens.

    Also the National Museum, Collins Barracks. They have tables and chairs outside in the courtyard. Lovely to be surrounded by history. So inspiring,

    These are a few places I have written in.

  2. Hi Gareth,
    Thanks for posting this and asking around for the references. I agree with your comment that there is some market potential here. I’d happily pay, say €5 for a two-hour stretch at a desk, or hot-desking “lite”. I’m looking into the Cube centre in D8 at the moment–hopefully the studio spaces there are inexpensive.
    http://www.thecubecreativehub.com/?page_id=131
    I’ve emailed Patricia (the director) to see if a studio-sharing option exists. Will post again once I get an update.
    Thanks again and All the Best,
    Brendan

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