Thursday, February 22, 2024

Writing in Hotels Part II

Wendall -- every other Thursday

This time last year, I headed out to one of my favorite writing hotels up the coast to try to finish a draft of Cheap Trills. I wrapped up the book there and at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

My last writing view.

As I think I’ve written before, I usually hide out in a hotel for the beginning, sometime in the middle, and to finish up every book. Being there on my own, getting up early, taking walks to restaurants or bars where I work over a glass of wine or a coffee, and just being able to live in the book for a few days, without doing the dishes or having to be anywhere, really helps in my process.

Sometimes my best ideas come in longhand, over breakfast.

This week, as I contemplate the best place to really dig into a new project I’m working on, I wanted to revisit one of my writing “escapes”—this time in Palm Springs—to consider whether it was the best place to begin this new, and for the moment, secret, writing venture. 



Palm Springs has changed a lot since I arrived in California in 1986.  It’s still stunningly beautiful and I always feel my shoulders descend from my ears the instant I arrive, just from the light and the air. It also seems to have spectacular sunrises and sunsets, which always cheer me up.


A few views from my motel balcony

It used to be a somewhat sleepy town, but now, with two weekends of Coachella, a major tennis tournament, a Film Festival, and various other events, it’s busier and more expensive, so I don’t get there quite as often as I did, either on my own, or with my husband, James.


The Royal Sun Inn, sadly closed.

For years, there were two spots where I would go, depending on the time of year and the room rates. I don’t need a fancy hotel, though I will take one if I can get a bargain. It doesn’t even need to have a restaurant, as long as there are ones I can walk to nearby, that will let me sit for a while.

Panoramic view from the back of the hotel

My first writing retreat in the desert was the original Royal Sun Inn, more of a motel than a hotel in the old days. At present, it’s closed while new owners renovate it.


Writing on the balcony at the Royal Sun

If you know Palm Springs, it sits just behind where South Palm Canyon Drive curves to the left, towards the more southern desert cities and is distinguished by its retro, A-line roof, back-facing balconies, proximity to the Moorten Botanical Gardens, and the waffle machine in the breakfast room.

Taking an inspiration break across the street at the Moorten Botanical Gardens.

Also by its $60 a night price and the fact that it’s walkable to downtown Palm Springs, but away from the craziness of the party zones. The new, gentrified version is set to open this year, but whether it will be a writing haven or a hipster nightmare, remains to be seen.

My other writing retreat for many years, especially in the 120 degree summers when they seriously dropped their prices, was The Renaissance Palm Springs, which is just set back from downtown and offers two highly air-conditioned restaurants,  a bar, and lots of shaded outdoor seating.  


I always asked for a quiet room, non-pool side!

My routine there was to go downstairs when the restaurant opened at 6am. The fabulous staff would let me go right to the unopened back of the restaurant to work. They protected me from loud parties for a few hours and were so supportive of what I was doing, one year they left me a “good luck finishing the book” card at the front desk on my departure. signed by all the servers.

I would go back to work in my room until lunchtime, when I would brave the heat for a two block walk to the Spa Resort Casino’s lunch buffet and slot machines, which ALWAYS helped me write.

Always a sucker for the nickel slots!

Back to the room for more work, then working over a drink at the hotel happy hour, or maybe at the nearby Tonga Hut for a Painkiller or a Mai Tai or the 60s throwback Melvin’s for a champagne cocktail, a chicken pot pie, jazz piano, and a stab at a chapter or two.


Entrance to the Tonga Hut

There's always the sense that Frank Sinatra's ghost is going to walk into Melvin's.

 Some days, I would take an hour off for inspiration at the Palm Springs Art Museum.


Goofing around with a camera at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Those were the days. I wrote a couple of books there and I miss it.  But it may be time to embrace change and find a new place to inspire a word count.

--- Wendall


  1. I love this post! And I am just the opposite: I can’t write much in hotels.

    1. Ha! I always love hearing about other people's process, as we are all as unique in what works for us as we are in our prose, I think. Fondest to you, Sujata!

  2. I confess that I've never tried to write anywhere but at home, but I'm lucky to have no distractions. I bet I'd have learned to work in hotels, restaurants, and just about anywhere if I had small children. But I didn't start writing books until our son went off to college.

    1. Yes, Kim, you are lucky to have a a bit of a sanctuary now. For me it's partly being away from all the things in the house (like dust and bills) that are screaming for attention, but I also have a very charming and chatty husband, so there's that!

  3. Aha, we share a secret...I love writing in hotels for many of the same reasons as you do. And as far as coincidences go, old Palm Springs was a real favorite of mine. Hmm, come to think of it, I first went out there in the mid-1970s in my capacity as a lawyer. I was investigating a potential scandal involving one of the then major golf resort hotels and the subject of it was...drum roll please... writHing in hotels.

  4. I have pretty much been able to write anywhere, except when I was a caregiver without privacy and could not work at home. Then, I found that best of all possible retreats: the Allen Room at the New York Public Library. Now I am back to wherever I happen to be.

    1. The above from AA

    2. Libraries are my best alternative, AA, though they seem to be getting louder and louder, at least in LA, so I have to bring noise cancelling headphones! Safe travels. xx

  5. You make hotel-writing look so appealing!

    1. It is, for my Ovidia, but it's always about what inspires and what blocks, for everyone. I know some people find them too impersonal.