Photo by Jake Lorefice on Unsplash
Fortunate are the writers who have found their place, that shady swath of grass, that quiet porch or perch, that charming coffee shop, favorite couch, comfy mound of pillows on the perfect bed, or productive spot in the school or public library from which they can consistency produce their best work, that place that melds with their psyche to bring forth poetry and prose befitting their talent, skill, and intellect.
Other writers search, and wait, in vain for their place, for that almost mythical spot where they can finally lay down their literary roots and flourish for years, decades to come.
My spot, as close as I could determine it, after reading about some picaresque nook, was hunched over my desk, eyes watching my fingers stomp over the keyboard with my feet in whichever position felt comfortable in the moment.
I wrote that way for quite a while, for years, desk-bound, head bowed before the computer screen, searching my brain for the next word, trying to get through another draft as quickly as possible, until one evening, in one brief shining moment, I found my oasis, while writing an essay for an English class.
The bathroom. I took my laptop with me for the first time. I didn’t normally move my laptop. It functioned just like a desktop computer for me. It stayed on the desk with a printer, keyboard, and mouse attached to it, and I only moved it to clean under it or rearrange my desk. I didn’t disconnect it.
I have never been able to write with my laptop in my lap. I can’t write in bed. I don’t know how anyone does, but I admire and envy them. The weight starts to bother me after about five minutes and I have to shift my position, move my legs, lay down, sit up, stretch my back, yawn, get up and walk around for a few minutes, to relieve it. I can’t even watch movies or videos with my laptop on my lap.
But, essay and novel writing require long periods of sitting still.
So, my laptop stayed on the desk and I stayed in front of it. But, this time was different. I was under the gun. It was crunch time and I had to produce a paper in two days and I didn’t have time to use the bathroom or do anything that took time. I had to use every available second to make up for all the time I procrastinated away.
I disconnected the cables, gadgets, and power cords, and took it to the bathroom.
And, it worked.
I started writing like someone else. The sentences and paragraphs came, the words came, the word pictures, the elegant, sometimes witty, turns of phrases. The paper started writing itself the way a fictional character will sometimes seize the writer and tell its own story. The paper seemed to take control and I was the willing and happy vessel who sat back on the throne and watched it happen. In the bathroom.
I had found my oasis.
For one brief shining moment.
I got off the toilet after over an hour feeling sore and giddy. I had found my place. The world was mine, now.
I returned home the next day, excited, thrilled to jump back into my paper, eager to return to the bathroom, to the toilet, with the lid down this time, with the power cord attached and plugged into the outlet over the sink, fortified with a couple of water bottles, a stack of reference materials, candy, and my phone, in case someone called me, or someone broke in. I was ready to create, ready to write like the wind, ready to rush through this paper and start on the revision and get it done. In record time.
No need to stop for a bathroom break.
I thought I had finally found my place.
But, it was a “one night in heaven” situation. The change of venue trick had worked just once – in the bathroom, in the bathroom, at least. It has never worked since.
I have tried everything, every place, I can think of since then to replicate that one night. It hardly ever works and when it does it’s never more than a few times.
Writing in the kitchen, on the floor, on the couch, outdoors, on the back steps of my apartment, at the dining room table, at the airport, in flight (instant nausea), standing up, lying on my stomach. leaning back against the wall.
I have tried switching computers, using different writing apps, writing with pen and paper, pencil and paper, writing on a tablet, writing on my phone.
Pen and paper work every once in awhile. The switch seems to jump start something in my brain, gets the words and ideas flowing again. Writing apps produce the same results as Microsoft Word. Pencil is difficult to write with; the pencil doesn’t flow and sweep across the page that way I want it to. The effort to counter the friction created when it moves gets in the way of my words. It is a poor medium for literary expression – for me anyway – and that is probably a result of having used a computer so much, having used it almost exclusively since I got my first laptop. But, I started with pencil and paper, back in the day, and it still has some magic.
Writing on tablet is bearable and doable, but only just. The screen is too cramped, the keyboard too small. It’s difficult to ignore the limitations. But, tablets have come in handy for me, more than once, giving me the opportunity to get in a few paragraphs here or there, when I had the time.
As for the locations: the only place I seem to be able to sit still for hours at a time, is in a chair, preferably in front of a desk. I get jittery and fidgety anywhere else, in any other position.
I don’t know what else to try.
I read an article or watched a video about someone who writes in a closet in his house – and it works for him! I tried it and…nope. I felt claustrophobic. I couldn’t move around even with a tiny folding serving table in front of me. I couldn’t stand because of the hangers and shelf above me. I couldn’t hear if someone came to the front door or even if they came into the apartment, until they were already in it, in the bedroom with me…
So, I am still looking, still hoping, still willing to try anything reasonable.
Maybe I have it already – this desk, this chair, this corner of the room. It certainly is where I have done the bulk of my work. And, yes, come to think of it, it is where I have done my best work, where countless multitudes of writers have done it, and do it.
Maybe this is my spot, our spot, until something better comes along.