We talk often, so often, about why we write and what we write, but this week the group decided to focus on where we write. How important are our surroundings? Does location matter? And am I right that this doesn’t sound like a particularly sexy topic? Well…
As a woman who has moved many times, I have become pretty flexible about where I can get my writing done. I’ve lived in San Francisco, Boston, and Berlin (to name a few places), and I now find that as long as I have quiet, uninterrupted time, peace of mind, and a laptop, I can do my thing anywhere. Of course, the first three items on that list aren’t easy to come by, but that’s a topic for another day/another blog/another therapy session. For now, I’ll confess: I’m not into desks.
Q: Where is the weirdest place you’ve ever … you know?
A: I do get around, but to be honest I pretty much stick to flat surfaces. I find those at home, in libraries, coffee shops, random peoples’ houses, and bars. Nowhere with too much food because I’m a messy eater, not to mention a mediocre multi-tasker, and very protective of my MacBook. But I’d say I am mostly into tables, preferably square.
Q: That’s it? Boring!
A: Well, if “writing” can include the thought process going into a book, then my favorite spot of all is the symphony. I admit I don’t have a deep understanding of classical music (unlike my sons, serious musicians who regularly bring me along), which means I have the ability to tune it out, almost entirely. In fact, I do my best plot planning and character developing while sitting in an auditorium and being a truly captive audience member, cell phone silenced, while the orchestra goes on. And on. And on. Yet I’m never bored because I’m figuring out coherent through lines in my mind the whole time. I think it works for me, in part, because I can actually appreciate the music while paying little to no attention to it. My motto for the New York Philharmonic? “What happens at Lincoln Center stays at Lincoln Center, except for the entire novel I just wrote in my head, because that shit’s getting published.” It’s not catchy, I admit. In any case, don’t tell the New York Philharmonic. It seems disrespectful to the musicians and all. Can you spot me, working away during Brahms – or was it Beethoven? Or Bach?
Q: But apart from fantasizing… What about when actually doing it? Any favorite spots?
A: I have a weakness for porches and an outright fetish for balconies. Even with a bit of street traffic, domestic disputes, and baby wailing (current soundtrack), I am so happy sitting outdoors on a private (voyeurs aside) ledge. Doesn’t have to be much, but there’s something about a balcony that makes me productive. Here’s where I am today, on my balcony in Frankfurt.
Q: Anywhere else you like to do it?
A: I live in New York most of the time and write at my dining room table, or sometimes at the NYU library. I wasn’t kidding that I don’t like to write at my desk, ever. For me, my desk is for mundane tasks, like paying bills and making landline calls to the cable company. My dining room table is often pretty messy, but I always take a minute to shovel off the debris, and I work well there, smack in the middle of my apartment. (View of, yes, New Jersey.)
Q: You have a landline?
A: Yes, and I’ll confess something else, too: When I’m on a tear and being especially productive, say seriously finishing a draft, my laptop and I stay in bed together. Like for hours. Without even getting dressed. I know, it sounds crazy and has led to moments in which I’ve worried that my spine is going to be permanently shaped like the letter C from sitting hunched over; but honestly, there are days that I’m compelled to wake up in the morning, grab my laptop off the pillow next to me, and pick up from wherever we left off the night before. It feels good to be on track so completely, that taking a break, even for a shower, isn’t a reasonable option. Now that’s exciting.
Q: So to sum up?
A: Yes to balconies. No to desks. Deep thoughts belong at the symphony. Serious activity belongs in bed. You know what I mean…