new york city / writing spots

Writing Spot on Lockdown

My weekend writing spot (a members-only organization in Manhattan) has a lot of rules:

  • No talking in the room.
  • No slamming doors.
  • No hogging bathroom keys.
  • No swiping magazines.
  • No leaving desk unattended for more than an hour.
  • No leaving dirty dishes in the sink.
  • No leaving the coffeepot empty.
  • No leaving food in fridge for more than a week.
  • No bringing in guests, even if it’s your husband and you just want to give him a quick peek at the place where you write.
  • No “munching” at desks. (The candy bowl in the kitchen is such a tease.)
  • No shoes on the chairs.
  • No writing while barefoot. (Yes, an email to members was sent out about this. Apparently some writers are bothered by the sight of others’ bare feet.)

But the biggest rule of all, the one that gets everyone up in arms, has to do with phones. Obviously you’re not allowed to talk on the phone here. Who would? There’s a phone room where you can make calls if you need to. And there’s wireless internet access. It’s not like a real writers colony where you have to hike up a dirt road to the one room in the whole place that has internet access if you want to check your email. (MacDowell, and that one place is Colony Hall.)

No. Now, here at my weekend writing spot, if you are seen with a phone in hand—like, say, running out to the phone room to answer a call—there are serious consequences.

First strike: $50 fine.

Second strike: $100 fine.

Third strike: You’re kicked out on your ass.

I couldn’t figure out how they’d know if you had your phone out and happened to glance at it to see if someone called or texted you on the weekends when the staff isn’t here, but then I realized. There are spies. Everywhere. Writer informants ready to turn you in. Now whoever I pass in the hallway seems suspicious. This one woman—one of the old-school members, not friendly—I bet she’s an informant; actually she’s pretty mean. The girl at the desk behind me, she seems nice enough, but could she be one too? Is Famous Writer an informant? Is the frazzled guy who walks around like he just crawled out of bed doing that as a cover—is he in fact a spy? Or… are those light fixtures really cameras? Is someone watching me type this right now?

Oh no, I’m getting paranoid.

Fact is, I don’t tend to make any phone calls here, but I have—I admit it, I admit it!—texted silently from my desk. The phone itself is on silent—no ring, no vibrate—but I guess texting that is no louder than typing on a laptop is something I can’t get away with anymore. I promise I will never do it again.

All that said, if you want to reach me on the weekend, don’t call. Really, don’t. If I forget to turn my ringer off and it starts singing… I’m dead.

6 thoughts on “Writing Spot on Lockdown

  1. Oh I hope they don’t make a rule against chewing gum! It didn’t even occur to me that the no-munching / no-snacking at desks rule would include that… No!

  2. Whoa, that’s a lot of rules.

    I should take that into consideration when I look for a writing spot in my area (though atm, I’m focused on looking for a “real” job), but if all the ones in my area are that uptight…I think I might have to just soundproof my bedroom.

    Some of these rules do make sense, but no bare feet? Maybe there have been problems with voyeuristic foot fetishists in the past (eeeew).

  3. That is the most anal, intense bunch of rules I’ve ever heard of. And believe me, as a Legal Professional, I am familiar with rules of all kinds.

    I love it that there are so many of them and they are so punitive. I want to know much, much more about your writing spot. For one thing, who’s in charge here?! For another, are there ever any confrontations about, say, the feet or munching problem? I feel like the whole thing is set up to keep the ground absolutely still because the inhabitants are land mines and any small thing will set off an explosion. Are writers really that weird and scary? Don’t answer that. I have only to look inside myself to know the answer. If you ever move to northern California, you can join my soon-to-be-formed writing room, the one my husband just created in our little unit beneath our house, the one with the view of a nice garden and, at least during the day when no children are around, is very quiet and smells like jasmine from the bushes outside. I’ve decided after I get it perfectly set up, I’m going to sublease it to other writers, for almost nothing, or for things like in-kind donations of gardening prowess. So, Nova, you have to move to Berkeley or San Francisco, okay? And you can chew and text and be as barefoot as you want.

  4. I am heartened by your comments, especially yours, BL, your writing spot sounds like heaven!

    As for mine, it’s bad enough I spend all day in such a corporate environment at work, bristling at the rules there and how I keep finding new and creative ways to break them… more rules on the weekend are the last thing I want to deal with. Oh well.

    Candy, I hope you find a good spot soon!

    If anyone wants more info on my writing spot, I can send you the link, just email me. There are many good things about the place, which is why I’ve been a member since 1999! But there are also other writing spots in New York… and I admit I’m curious.

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