Monday, August 13, 2007

Where Do You Write?

Today was a beautiful day in New York City. I'm not talking about our new, lower standard: no tornado, no flooded subway. I'm talking about the real thing: an August day with low humidity, temps barely in the 90s, lots of sunshine.

How did I spend it? Inside writing, looking longingly through my window at the wide avenue that runs through my part of Manhattan. There's an elementary school directly across the street. It's pretty quiet over there on a Sunday in August. Just below my window is deli that draws a modest crowd of hangers-out throughout the day. On really hot summer days not much happens there, the adults head inside for their ACs, the kids around the corner to pop open the fire hydrant. Today: not so hot so lots of action below my window. But the real fun in my neighborhood is just out of sight from my desk, around the corner, under the awning that runs the length of the supermarket across the street. There, the older Dominican men gather, some on folding chairs, a few on wooden chairs, and one on a battered barca lounger. Through the afternoon, the evening, and into the early morning they play dominoes, swig beer, and listen to the boom box.

Now it's just past 11:00 and the game is going strong. I however am done writing. (Oh, who am I try to fool? I finished hours ago) The point is the place is hoping and, while I often write at a Starbucks in midtown, sometimes I feel like an environment that has a little more grit and bustle to it than the squeaky-cleaned-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life Starbucks. Does it make a difference? Not that I can tell. The choice seems to have more to do with my mood than any real requirement of the work. The one thing that doesn't vary is the amount of time and when I write. There's a schedule and I stick to it even as the location floats. What sort of writing space works for the rest of you?


Mark Terry said...

I have an office in my house. I live in a ranch-style house and half of our basement is finished off, and one of the two rooms is my office. It's quite large, actually, with a small window behind me. There's a full bathroom off the next room (which we've dubbed The Bat Cave because it has no windows and my wife slept down there when she worked midnights). I've got several bookcases, filing cabinets, two desks--a computer desk and another oak desk that serves primarily to hold up files--and a folding table that holds my printer, files, office supplies. I've also got a futon (where the dog usually sleeps when he's inclined to join me) and a rocking chair. I like my office, even if it is a bit cold in the winter and requires a space heater.

Candy Calvert said...

Chuck, that sounds so incredibly colorful!
Like Mark, I'm an office writer, too. Probably because the "office" I had in my long career as an ER nurse, was frought with pesky problems like screams, sirens, hazardous waste spills, armed gangbangers--you get the picture.
So now I'm blessed with a quiet little office looking out onto a lawn shaded by live oaks. Its an eastern exposure, so the sunrise throws this amazing pink light through the windows . . . love it.
Naturally, I have the standard bookcases,and a computer desk, but I also have fun stuff around, like huge glossy posters of my bookcovers, a big party parrot (ala the one in Mai Tai to Murder) hanging from the ceiling, and a full-size mockup of the wedding cake from the cover of Aye Do or Die.
Plus, my old personalized license plate from California: "1AUTHOR"(with a heart replacing the "O")--it's a girl thing! ;-)

Mark Terry said...

Yeah, I've recently added framed and matted poster-sized covers from my books as well, along with a lot of other artwork.

Rick Bylina said...

Lizzy, a bluetail lizard scampers up my screen in the window to my outside world. Few cars pass by on this cul-de-sac of five five-acre lots; however, my neighbor does all the family shopping via the Internet. Delivery trucks (FEDEX, UPS, DHL, US Post) hover for turns at her driveway like the 50-to-60 ruby-throated hummingbirds that suspend in air waiting their turn at my two feeders. Twice a day they force me to relinquish my butt to gravity and fill them. Spiders have made irregular webs in the trumpet vine that surrounds my window. Hummers delicately pluck the web for strands to strengthen their nests, hidden some 30-40 feet up in the canopy of oaks. I launch out of the seat to shoo away deer so they don't feel comfortable nibbling on my plants; rabbits I tolerate, as long as clover remains their main diet. Squirrels do acrobatics in the trees: flipping, turning, leaping, and lunging for no apparent reason. But I love it when I'm surprised by something unique. A raccoon as big as a small bear regally sat on the septic tank one morning eating the leftovers from a pig roast. An oppossum carrying her family decided to nap one afternoon under the azealas. A flock of turkeys (4 adults/16 babies) strolled through the yard last year during a terrible grasshopper infestation. I cheered them on, as they greedily ate the invaders. A guinea hen appeared and scratched its head like a lost old man in the mall. Bob-a-links have pecked the ground for seed during a drought. And one day four peacocks cruised through the yard, looking for directions to Arizona from NC, I presume. The male gave a mighty call, and I thought my cockatiel, Sydney, would die of a heart attack. He screams in my ear when a bird of prey alights and sometimes tries to help with my writing.

Inside, it is an 8x12 office with what you'd expect--a ten foot commute that I can stretch into hours.

A second bluetail has crawled on the screen. "Back off, bub." Lizzy arches her back to send the message. The protagonist and antagonist are in a battle to the death, and it reminds me that my villian has a knife to the throat of my hero.

That's where I write, but maybe I should relocate. Rejection number 423 arrived via email this morning. Oh! My gawd. There goes an eagle. I think I'll stay.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Lovely description both Chuck and Rick!

I write best at my cluttered computer desk in a corner of my bedroom with the noise of LA traffic, complete with the occasional siren, coming through the open patio doors. My two cats are often on the desk snoozing while I type – one on the side shelf and one sprawled between the keyboard and the screen. Occasionally, one will nip at the hand on the computer mouse for attention.

In the summer it can be brutal as I live on the 3rd floor with no AC, but I have a large oscillating fan at my back and plenty of cold water to keep me going. I also write best wearing a big old torn t-shirt, and I have several to make sure I’m never out of “uniform.”

Above me is the smiling face of Selma Diamond, my muse. She keeps watch over me while I work. Though I do like the idea of having my book covers around. Must add that to my “to-do” list.

Mark Combes said...

I too am an office writer - but I've attempted to transform my office into my dream setting for writing - a hut on the beach in the Caribbean. It takes a fair amount of creative energy to visualize a beach all the way from middle America - but with blue walls, worn hardwood floors, flags from the island nations I've visited and the wide scattering of photos and misc. junk collected on those trips helps put me in the mood.

Susan Goodwill said...

I, too, write from a home office, but it doubles as day-job office as well, so I sometimes need to get away from the distractions.
I go to Starbuck's, the library, Borders, and my favorite, the screen house on my very own back deck overlooking the lake. The last month or so has been hot and my office, although it has air, is still an attic and feels like one when the sun beats on the thin roof. I have moved to the lower level walk out kitchen. (It's a Michigan thing,, right, Mark T.?) No distractions, and my current muse, a blue fairy godmother sits on a jar of sugar next to me. My two dogs often visit, but apparently my writing puts them to sleep. They tend to snore and wiggle their paws dreaming out their own more dog-relevant dramas.
Chuck, thanks for the nice post. Rick-- as always your descriptions are great.

Felicia Donovan said...

In my bed, on my laptop until I drift off to sleep. And if anyone from the IRS is reading this, in my spare bedroom that has since been converted to my office.

The Imaginary Blog said...

I write in what's supposed to be my dining room but has been overtaken by computer things and piles and piles and piles of Very Important Stuff that is heavily covered with dust. From here I can see the living room and the kitchen and the front door. Quite the vantage point.

And, of course, if I look down I see a huge grey cat on my lap. She's been my assistant since she arrived ten years ago. Her typing needs improvement but she's always up for a snack, which makes her invaluable, I think.


Joe Moore said...

Here's a bit of trivia I learned at ThrillerFest. Heather Graham, who writes approximately 75 novels a month, does all her work off her dinning room table. And James Patterson writes all his books longhand on a legal pad with pencils.

I, on the other hand, eat off my dinning room table and don't own a pencil.

Bill Cameron said...

I'm a coffee shop writer. Specifically a Starbuck's writer, where you hafta pay extra for the WiFi. I have no willpower to not surf the web, so I have to hide from it to write. If the city ever gets the free WiFi network to my neighborhood, I'm doomed.

Rick Bylina said...

75 N O V E L S P E R M O N T H!

Must be an inside joke I don't get.

Even Barbara Cortland doesn't write that fast, and she's still doing it from beyond the grave.


Joe Moore said...

I was exaggerating to emphasize how prolific Ms. Graham is. But since 1985, she has written over 100 novels. Still not too bad for someone who works off her dinning room table. :-)

G.M. Malliet said...

Chuck - I loved your description of city life. It reminded me that while I sometimes daydream about writing in a house in the country (Provence! Tuscany!), I know in my heart that I need all the racket of city life going on around me. Horns blaring, people shouting, music playing (but not too loud).

I write wherever - in coffee shops when I'm writing or editing by hand, in my home office when the manuscript is getting so cumbersome I need to stay inside the word processing file. I have a laptop I could use but I seldom bother with lugging it around.