Writing Here, Writing There, Writing Everywhere

When I was away at the MacDowell Colony—a perfect place to write if there ever was one—I found myself asking where everyone else wrote. In real life.

I was so curious about other people’s usual writing spaces because writing in this…

…sure isn’t my usual reality.

(That little cottage was my studio! All my own!)

It turned out that quite a few of the writers in residence while I was there were from New York City, which meant they were struggling with the constraints I do: itty-bitty apartments; endless noise; access to everything in the world at any hour of the day, which sure helps keep you focused and motivated to stay put at your desk, let me tell you. Sigh.

None of the writers I met were members of my writing space, but I did meet one who’s a member at another space in the city, where he’s asked them to block the IP address on his laptop from being able to access the wifi! Only after that did he get a lot of work done. This both inspired me… and scared me. I may not be so strong.

One novelist writes at a couple cafés near his apartment. (I made careful note of their names in the back of my mind. Not to stalk him, but in case I’m ever in the area and need a good writing spot.)

One writer works at different branches of the New York Public Library—she has her favorites.

One playwright writes in a certain Brooklyn café that I am welcome to try so long as I don’t take her favorite table. It would be a smackdown!

Another playwright told me she takes subway and ferry trips all over the city—to far-flung, beautiful spaces—and then she writes there.

Some writers actually write at home, in their apartments, which I was able to do successfully when I was facing revision deadlines of Imaginary Girls. The panic helped keep me focused. Maybe that’s the secret: deadline-induced panic.

As you can tell by this post, I’m back home. It’s been a couple of days and I haven’t found my citylegs yet. I am mourning the loss of my tent—and I miss so much about the colony, including their blueberry pancakes. But it was a wonderful thing to look into the dark brown eyes of the one I love, so I’m so happy to be here with him again. Besides, I suppose I could attempt some interior design of the bedroom to build a tent… and whip up a batch of my own blueberry pancakes…

Today, though, was my first trip to my usual writing space, and I’m a little out of sorts because the furniture has been rearranged. My favorite desk no longer exists. Not to worry, I’ll surely have a new favorite in no time.

The funny thing is I went far away to New Hampshire to have the space to write—and loved it—and then, during the long return trip, in the train car with a whole bunch of strangers, I found myself writing. I’d switched from the bus to the train… but then the train was long-delayed due to a frozen engine and finally arrived to pick us up and then got stuck behind a stalled freight train. But no matter. It was on the Amtrak that I felt that burst I couldn’t contain. I had to write then and there. So while we were waiting for the train to be turned around, switching tracks (which wasn’t even part of the delay!), I typed up a storm on my tray table, even when the electricity cut out. I couldn’t keep myself from writing.

Maybe it’s not the space at all. Maybe it’s the space in your mind.

No wonder I was in the mood to write… In my mind was my time spent at MacDowell—an amazing series of weeks I don’t even know how to describe here. I came out of my shell a little bit and maybe because of that it was my best residency experience to date.

But I’m home now. And what do I do, now that I am home?

Answer: Shut up and write my novel. My deadline is fast approaching!


  1. Great post! It sounds like a really great experience to be away and have a quiet place to really think and write. I guess your mind just opens up when you have nothing else to think about but your own creativity. Good luck with your deadline.

  2. It’s interesting the places people find to write. The public library system here was a pretty good place for me to write, but I moved counties and mine closer a little too early. Once I actually have a computer desk, my apartment will be more comfortable to write in. My neighbors are quiet, my heat is set where I want it, I’m working on better lighting, and all of my writing handbooks/exercises, and previously printed copies of my WIPs are all there.

    I must admit, I do love sitting in a big window ledge in a ray of winter sunshine in the library, or next to the window in a quaint, mom and pop coffee shop (not Panera or Starbucks; too busy).

    Lovely post!

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