The Writing Life: Always on the move, or dammit, sit in one place and write
Here’s how my writing day generally goes: rise with the sun; make myself a lovely cup of jasmine tea; stare out at the verdant expanse of nature as the world unfurls itself to me; sit down at the Smith-Corona and magically usher forth words, paragraphs, chapters, worlds. It’s harmonious in its sameness, a Zen conduit to creativity.
And if you believe a word of that, hit yourself in the head with your cell phone so I don’t have to. Writing in the 21st century is a mass of stolen moments, weaving through distraction like you’re running the trench of the Death Star (dated reference, or classic reference? Should I put a video here? What about a link to that cool new NO. GET BACK TO THE POINT.)
Anyway, you see what I mean. Writing for me is less a matter of finding the time to work than finding the focus to work. I’m all over the place, both psychologically and literally. We’ll talk the mysteries of the writer’s mind another time; for now, let’s talk about physical location.
I’ve got a very nice office, with two computer screens, big bookshelves stocked with Important Books (second edition of “Catcher in the Rye”; a conspicuously-unused book once owned by my parents entitled “How to Raise a Brighter Child”), and other signed/souvenir ephemera, including enough press passes to encircle the head of a small child. It’s a lovely place, quite conducive to work … and I spend a whole lot of time outside it, banging away on a laptop half the size of my desktop setup.
Why? Hell if I know. I do know that sometimes getting out of the house (which is where my office is located) is outstanding for creativity, or for dodging the sofa that lures me into just a 15-minute nap, promise. But the folks at the local sports bar know my usual order, if not my name. I’ve got my own spot staked out there by the window. Chicken wings and flatscreen TVs aren’t quite as literarily romantic as, say, Hunter S. Thompson’s Woody Creek Tavern, but the setup works just fine. I tend to find a seat by a window, put on headphones, and find either wifi or a satellite uplink, just like Hemingway used to. (I have not, as yet, seen anyone reading an article that I wrote in the same spot, though once I did see a guy reading the article just above mine on that day’s Shutdown Corner. I wanted to encourage him to scroll just a little bit downward … but that wouldn’t have been creepy at all, no.)
Now, I’m not talking about writing on the road, in press boxes and airports and hotel rooms and the like. That requires a whole different set of skills … for starters, the ability to stay the hell away from whatever noxious creations are decorating the press-box buffet. And that, too, is a subject for another day. Prepare thy stomach.
Anyway, for writers, a little transience isn’t always the worst thing in the world. Flexibility is the key these days; hell, I wrote the first draft of the first post-accident Tiger Woods story on my iPhone while on a train ride at Stone Mountain Park outside Atlanta. Does it make for a more distracting environment, or less? Up to you, I suppose. Works well enough for me, though I can imagine the dog wishes I were home a little more often.