Monday, July 02, 2007

A Place To Write. . .

by Sean Chercover

I know writers who can write anywhere. Some write on airplanes, somehow able to ignore the prying eyes of the passengers on either side. Some grab a few minutes from the day job and bash away in their cubicles, blocking out the ringing phones and gossiping coworkers. Many are even able to write in coffee shops.

“Just banged-out a thousand words down at Starbucks this morning. The cappuccino machine’s milk-frother? Didn’t even hear it. The superficial yuppie chatter? Didn’t bother me. The over-roasted coffee? The fluorescent lighting? The new-age muzak? All water off a duck’s back, man. I can write anywhere. Got my thousand words with plenty of time to bike across town to Yoga class.”

I hate these people.

Hate them.



Okay, hate is a strong word. Maybe I don’t quite hate them. And maybe my pseudo-hatred is really envy, because I can’t do what they do. Oh, I’ll take a notepad and a pen down to my local pub or coffee house. Well, the pub. And I’ll do all sorts of brainstorming with said notepad and pen. But when it comes to actually writing prose, getting the actual story down, I put aside the tablet and chisel, and switch to a laptop and keyboard.

And for some reason, at that point, I need to be alone.

I need quiet (even though I often play music while writing) and I need to feel the absence of prying eyes, or eavesdropping ears (I often vocalize while writing).

Am I strange? Okay, don’t answer that. I know I am strange. But that’s how it is with me, and I know that there are others like me out there in the world.

As many of you know, my wife and I have a ten-month-old baby. Love the little critter, and I’m having a blast. Never thought it could be this much fun, this rewarding. But remember what I said about needing quiet? Not really an option, at home with a teething baby.

Luckily, my wife and I have a very generous friend named Kit, and Kit has a cottage, and Kit’s cottage is my Place To Write.

Kit’s cottage is semi-rustic. No phone and no Internet. There is electricity, so the computer works and you can play music, and you can cook indoors when it rains. But there’s no running water, so you wash the dishes in the lake. And you wash yourself in the lake. And, well, there’s no running water.

You can take the canoe out and fish for bass. You can swim with your dog. Or you can just sit in the boathouse and take in the beauty of it all. And at night, there are so many stars. Living in the city, you forget about the stars. This place reconnects you with the planet you live on. It is a good place to be, and a very good place to write.

I come here with my dog, Edgar, and I write. My wife and baby come up in the evening and visit. They go home again, and I write some more.

And then I return to the city, and try to figure out how to bring that place, that head space, home with me.

Tell me about your writing place.


JD Rhoades said...

I have two actually: the master bedroom where I write with the laptop propped up on my knees, and, in good weather, the back deck. When it gets dark I light the iron torches for that nice barbaric feel.

In a pinch, when the house is just too damn noisy (wait'll your offspring's a teenager, bub) I drive the few blocks to my law office and write there. One of the advantages of living and working in a small town.

The Home Office said...

My townhouse may only be sixteen feet wide, but there's a kid's bedroom in the back that overlooks our little yard and the wooded area beyond. That's my place. I'm getting a laptop soon, and I'll be able to extend my writing activities to the patio on nice days. I'm already thinking of it as The Annex.

Sara P said...

Oh, Sean, I'm so with you. I have constant envy of Val McDermid, who can write anywhere, even on the road while touring. I can barely write while I'm home locked in my office. And you're so lucky to have Kit's cottage, without the Net, the world's all -time worst pernicious distraction. When I worked full-time as a marketing manager, my 3 s tepsons were all at home, but writing then was such an escape that I did it in the middle of chaos. Now that it's all that I do, it makes me too nervous and I have a hard time escaping into it. But that's another story==maybe my next posting.

Christa M. Miller said...

Oh, I would go insane in your cabin! I need noise. Not too much. Just, well, coffee-shop noise. Unfortunately, "Mama, wanna play with me?" is not conducive to writing (nor should it be, I suppose), but I have managed to tune out PBS Kids in order to write.

Feel free to hate me - I write just about anywhere. I have to. Otherwise I'd never work. I take my PDA on car trips, to parks, and even into bed when the small people in the house need me with them. It works for me although it's often disjointed - that's why I've focused more on short fiction than novels, lately....

Matt said...

Most of my plotting and brainstorming happens on walks.

In the morning, I hop off the Metra and walk along Wacker to my day job, off Michigan Ave. I focus exclusively on the next 1,000 words. Lunchtime is round 1. On a good day, I punch out about 300 words in an hour and e-mail myself the copy.

After work, on my walk back to Ogilve, I let my mind wander ahead to scenes that may not be written for months. I find it's a good way to keep "writing" while allowing my subconscious sweat the details of what I have just written and what I still need to write to complete my 1,000-word output.

Back at home, I cook dinner for myself and the wife, eat, read what I have written that day, then walk the dog through a forest preserve and think it over.

In college, I used to have a real problem completing stories. These days, I adhere to a fairly rigid schedule. It trains your mind to be ready for work at certain hours of the day. The first few weeks, it's hard. But after you get accustomed to your routine, you find that your imagination really begins to explode at those times of day.

Christopher said...

For me, it's not quiet or noise, or the functions of place that quell or feed the muse. For me, my mood is what determines my place to write. When I am in a creative flow I can write 500 words sitting on the toilet but when I am bound up by emotions and mundane troubles the nouns and verbs trickle to slow drip.
Still, a cabin without internet would be a nice place to work.

Sam Bennett said...

i write best on the train directly into a sketchbook. can't write on a comp anymore. i get too "edity."

Willie Holmes said...

I used to have unbelievable focus and could write practically anywhere from scratch. Now I have to really think about my story and can only write in fits and starts. I'd hate to think that this means what I'm doing is no longer important to me, but I think I've still got passion for my work.