I write in a place I can’t really call mine. I can’t leave my things out all over the desk. I can’t decorate the walls. I have to put my writing slippers and writing sweater away in my locker every single night. There’s a good chance that I’ll arrive in the morning to find someone else in my favorite chair. But I write here all the same—I can’t imagine being a writer in Manhattan without having this place where I can go 24 hours a day, any day, any moment. I carry the key with me everywhere.
The place is called the Writers Room—and it fits its name: It’s a giant loft often filled with writers writing. Sure, we also check our Facebook and nap under our desks (guilty of this just last week), and we can be found chatting in the kitchen, or gathering up a handful of sugary sustenance from the constantly replenished M&M dispenser, or stretching in the typing room, but most often we’re at our desks. On a weekday, the place is packed. You hear pages turning, sometimes sneezing, doors swishing open and closed, chair backs adjusting, coffee slurping, and typing, from all directions and every corner, the sounds of tapping keyboards. The rhythm of other writers typing out their novels and stories and articles and plays and screenplays and poems makes me all the more motivated to type out mine. I love that sound.
I’ve been a member here since I was a graduate student uptown. I had part-time morning and weekend membership then—I spent years on the waiting list to get full-time 24-hour-a-day access, and I’m so grateful to have it now. Back then, in the beginning, the Room was located somewhere else, in another building around the corner from where it is now. I’d get up at five in the morning and take the subway to Times Square, then transfer to another line, and get here, sometimes as the first person of the day. I’d leave in time for class or by eleven thirty; the latest I could stay as a part-time member.
Then the space moved, to a more wide open loft with giant windows overlooking Broadway, and there were a few weeks of adjustment, but I easily found my new favorite desks and settled into my routines. I got full-time membership years ago, but I couldn’t make use of it with my day job. Still, I held on. There were days when I’d come in when it was still dark on a Saturday morning, flattened from a stressful workweek at my job, feeling like a robot, someone barely worthy of calling herself a writer… but then I’d sit at my desk, and I’d switch on my light, and I’d open my word processor, and I’d start tapping away into the silent space like the other writers who came here, and I felt worthy somehow. I felt right.
I still feel that now.
I need this separation from home. I need a creative-only space. This place is not for everyone, and that’s fine by me. We’d be too crowded otherwise.
I’ve written thousands of pages here, in its previous location and now the new one, no exaggeration. Stories and my graduate thesis and work-for-hire manuscripts and novels published and soon-to-be-published and never-to-be-seen. I like the quiet of the Room—no talking at the desks. I like the cell phones banished to the phone room. I really don’t mind that no one can reach me by phone while I’m here (fyi: try e-mail). I like the sounds of all the other writers working around me. I like looking out the windows at the city lights at night.
I can’t bring friends up since it’s members-only, but I show them from down in the street. I’ll point up to the row of top-floor windows—always lit up, whatever the day, late into the night. “That’s where I write,” I say. Looking up at it from the sidewalks down below, there’s a privacy and also a magic. Each desk is a blank slate, a blank page. Anything could happen here. Anything has.
I come here in pajamas sometimes. I don’t wear makeup; my hair’s a mess. I’m really not here to network. I write often with a scarf over my head, in semblance of a tent. I walk the halls in a daze, deep into whatever I’m writing, so I’m not so talkative and I hope no one takes it personally. There are times when I walk past a great writer whose books I’ve read and admire to no end and I think, How can we both write at the same desks? How is that POSSIBLE?
But it is, somehow. There are all kinds of writers here. Ones like me, and geniuses like them. This place is open to all of us.
I didn’t photograph the rest of the space—you’ll have to imagine. It’s a private place, and writers are right now writing all around me, and I didn’t want to bother anyone.
I come here almost every day, even if I only really have time to write for a half hour. Maybe one day, when I can afford a bigger place to live, and we leave this city for somewhere else, I’ll have a writing office at home. What a luxury that would be. For now, I have the Writers Room, my most favorite place to write in this entire city.
I was here yesterday. I’ll be here tomorrow. I am here right now.
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This is the main place where I write. The other is a café. Where do you write?