What a City Writer Does When Given Some Peace and Quiet

I’m used to writing in the city. I write with people around me, always. I’ll write in the mornings in my favorite café, people talking, music blaring, my own headphones jammed in my ears to focus my own soundscape but all the rest still filtering through. I’ll write in the daytime at my writing space, a quiet place but still not entirely quiet: sounds of people coughing, slurping coffee, tapping at the keys. If I try to write at home, in my tiny Manhattan apartment, I’m aware of our neighbors above and below and beside me, one of whom lives across the airshaft and yammers so loudly it sounds like she’s sitting in my living room talking to me. Or talking at me. Because you couldn’t get a word in edgewise with her.

I’m never really alone. I can always hear other people, and they can always hear me.

I’m pretty much surrounded.

So what does a city writer used to writing among noise and people do when no one can hear or see her for hours at a time?

In the past weeks, I admit to doing the following in my writing studio (the studio is a little cottage all my own, down a private drive in the woods):

• I have sung loudly, off-key

• I have played, on repeat, the same album again and again and again and again (if curious, this new novel likes the xx)

• I have jumped up and down wildly to get the blood flowing

• I have read whole chapters aloud to the woods outside my window

• I’ve paced

• I’ve spun

• I have leaped around, emulating (and badly) my former ballet training

• I’ve napped, knowing not a soul can see me (felt guilty anyway)

• I’ve given myself pep talks

• I’ve constructed a pretty awesome tent

• I’ve attempted to play the baby grand piano

• I’ve stomped around as loudly as I can—no one is below me to complain!

• I’ve donned a special “writing outfit” never to be seen in public

• I’ve spilled coffee on my Write Like a Motherfucker T-shirt

• I’ve spilled soup on my pants

• I’ve written like a motherfucker, and I’ve written like a timid mouse. I’ve written surprising new things. I’ve changed my narrator’s name. I’ve discovered elements to this story I didn’t see there before. I’ve plunged in and I’ve gotten stuck and I’ve pulled myself out and I’ve wished for divine intervention and maybe I got some… I’ve written some serious pages that I didn’t even know I had in me. I’ve let go and let out some stuff with incredible potential… I hope.

And who knows what else I’ll do with all this space and peace and quiet. I have about a week left.

What do you do when you have a writing space all your own? What would you do while writing if not a soul in the world could see or hear you? C’mon… I told you I only have one week left… give me some ideas.

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5 responses to “What a City Writer Does When Given Some Peace and Quiet”

  1. Sounds like heaven! I hope you are well. 🙂 Me? I tend to just stare out the window for hours when I’m alone. Very sedentary I am. I like the dancing!

    Also–I hope you are ready for more snow? Lots more headed your way!


  2. I would instruct you thusly: bundle up in your absolute warmest. Go outside late at night. Stay outside as long as you possibly can, looking at and listening to the stars. (I’m convinced they’re made of inspiration.) And when you’re cold but full of inspiration, go back inside and write like crazy.

    Loved this post, by the way. Keep up the amazing use of the time you’ve been given.


  3. When I have my own writing space, I have papers strewn everywhere around me (and envelopes and napkins and receipts I have ideas written on). I also have a recorder I’m obsessed with at the moment that I read my stories into and play back so I can hear how they sound. I’d be in my stay at home socks all day eating pasta and drinking Sprite. Now, the fun stuff…

    I’d stay on a bus or train all day and strike up conversations with the people who got on. I’d write character sketches and scenarios for the ones I didn’t talk to. I’d taken in a starlit night on my back in the snow. I’d come up with more blog posts than plot twist. I’d imagine my story were a movie and idly watch it in my mind. I’d see my characters on the street and follow them to their usual haunts. I’d easedrop on their conversations. I’d listen to girl power anthems. Then, I’d write.

    Great, great post 😀


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