by which I mean, can you do it while … listening to music, sitting at a table of other people, watching tv, attending to facebook …???

Last week I taught an Arvon course with the very lovely Paul Magrs, the splendid Claire Berliner, Olly Meek and Julia Wheadon of Totleigh Barton (and Mr Doggles), Paul Burston as our guest writer, and 16 insanely keen*, hard-working and very energetic writers.
And there was no mobile signal, no internet access, no radio, no tv/music etc etc …
Over the years, I’ve found I can pretty much write anywhere if I have to, though I prefer silence, don’t quite get how other people manage to write in cafés without becoming totally distracted by everyone else there, get more done when I’m alone in the house and, like most other writers I know (other than Lauren Henderson who is a force of nature & Judge Judy), when I disengage from the internet/email, I do a little more on the word count.
But … nice though the countryside is (and it is, cows are pretty and fields are green and autumnal Devon is richly mellow etc etc), I really want to be able to work anyway and anywhere. I don’t like the idea that we get more done when we’re away from home, that for many of us the distractions of ‘real life’ can be a distraction from work, I want to achieve my ideal word count/best phrases/have loads of energy for work at home in my own office as well as those places where there are fewer competing demands.
One of the things the Arvon effect (and other residential courses too, I’m sure) has to offer is a sense of industry – when Paul was taking a workshop and I had a free morning I found I was hungry to use the time to write myself. The feeling that sixteen people over in the house were all working on their own writing meant I wanted to get to work too. And perhaps this is the main benefit of going away to work together – even for a writer with another writer in the same house (!), it can feel lonely – there’s something about a buzz of work (a silent countryside buzz of work!) that encourages endeavour. So, for me, it’s not about the (lack of) music or emails or noise or letters … it’s about the other people.
(isn’t it always?!)

* teaching impro-for-book-writers to a bunch of grownups who have (mostly) never touched this stuff before, and who just go with it and get on with it – brilliant.