Originally posted on : http://thismightbetrue.wordpress.com
About the Author: I’m an MFA student new to the blogging life. This Might Be True is my blog about fiction writing through a social justice lens. This Might Be True will focus on obstacles faced during the writing process and review written and cinematic texts that challenge or reinforce issues of gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, etc. The blog will also feature regular posts about my cat, Nike.
You can contact me at email@example.com.
Where I Write
My friend Alise runs a marvelous tumblr called Where Writers Write. It features exactly what it claims to: submissions from writers describing and showing where they get their work done.
It’s only recently that I’ve found a sustainable writing environment. I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts a little over a year ago, and since then my life became a journey of writing space trial and error.
I have three major barriers to creating and keeping a productive writing space:
1. My cat, Nike – who’s very adept at finding out the exact combination of cute gestures that it takes for me to get up and give her a treat.
2. My OCD, which compels me to perform irrational actions and behaviors for irrational amounts of time. In public, I’m able hide these activities most of the time. But in my apartment, it’s far too easy to become all OCD, all the time.
3. Colonizing clutter. Thankfully, I’m not at a true “hoarder” level of compulsion, but it is difficult for me to throw things away unless I’ve utilized them for every possible purpose for as long as I can. Part of that stems from my OCD, and part of it comes from my Nana, who keeps her house as though the Great Depression is still going on and considers throwing anything away to be A SIN.
For instance, recently my poor partner discovered my oreo cookie hoard.
R: What…how many boxes of oreos do you have in there?
ME: Stop snooping! You’re not supposed to see that!
R (examining the packages): This one expired five months ago. And this one is a holiday package – from 2009. Why the hell haven’t you thrown these out?
ME: They’re still good! I’m saving them to crumble up and make a pie crust. I saw a recipe for it online.
R: Oh, really? When was the last time you made a pie?
ME: … Sulk. (That’s not a description; I like to say my facial expressions out loud sometimes.)
Phase One: A Proper Desk
I started out in my writing space endeavors ambitiously, at a desk that my kind Aunt had in her garage and gave to me.
The perfect setting, right?
Mind you, when I try to get Nike’s attention, she ignores me. But if she sees me trying to work, she can’t let the activity stand.
Picture this: I’m hunched over the desk, shoulders up around my ears, clanking away at the computer keys. All of a sudden, I feel four paws land on my back (yes, this is a thing with Nike — she enjoys riding around on people as though they were magic carpets). Nike’s heart-shaped pink and black-spotted nose comes into view over my shoulder, as though she’s reading the screen. Then she licks my cheek and says “mmrph.”
I am powerless when confronted with such charming manipulations. Before I know it, I’m picking Nike up, cooing at her, — and there goes my writing for the day.
Of course, Nike wasn’t the only one to thwart me here. The desk was such a nice workspace that I started using the desk for my amateur bead work. Soon enough it became covered in beads, clasps, pliers, pieces of string (which are totally still usable), and a thousand small bags and boxes that I can reuse someday to store beads (for serious, I will!).
Phase Two: The Kitchen Table
You can spot the problem right away, can’t you? I don’t know what I was thinking. The kitchen table is where I keep Nike’s 93857409387290837450987 treats. In fact, Nike could not imagine what possible use the kitchen table might have other than a treat dispensary.
And so, despite all my good intentions, this would happen:
Nike loved it when I tried to work at the kitchen table. If I refused to give her a treat, she’d just park herself on my laptop or notebook, as if to say, “No worries, I can wait.”
A logical question that you might ask is: “Why don’t you just lock Nike up in a room while you’re working?” Well, that would be great. However, my apartment is in an older building, and the floor is quite slanted from settling. In fact, other than the front door, none of the doors in my apartment can actually close, as the door frames and the doors themselves do not line up.
Phase Three: The Bathtub
Yeah. It got that bad. I believe in what Ron Carlson writes in Ron Carlson Writes a Story:
”All the valuable writing I’ve done in the last ten years has been done in the first twenty minutes after the first time I’ve wanted to leave the room” (Carlson 47).
Sticking with it once my drafting process slows is a difficult thing for me, and that’s probably why I have a chronic late habit; I have pages and pages of stuff, but I don’t review it or put it together until I’m already late. And then, I get frustrated, and walk away, and come back, and walk away.
I told myself: If it’s a pain for me to actually remove myself and climb out of the tub, then I’ll be more likely to stay in one place and crank stuff out. And since I use the shower every day, my clutter problem was unlikely to occur.
Writing in the bath seems like a great idea, doesn’t it? How relaxing, to sit submerged in warm water and sweet smelling bubbles, being all creative. This is one of those things that sounds a lot better than it turns out to be in execution. My notebook slid right out of my hands into the water, and that was the end of that. Desperate, I stuck a sitting stool with one short leg in there (yes, that sorry sight up above).
Did I mention that Nike refuses to drink still water and insists on drinking from the tub faucet? So picture this: me, in writer’s agony, rocking back and forth on a little stool surrounded by white tile and ceramic surfaces.
And right there in front of me is Nike, blinking at me and being adorable. How can I write when my darling precious sweet pea is right in front of me, bringing her cuteness A-game? I decided this wasn’t the place for me – although when I’m in the grip of a deadline, I’ll still occasionally haunt the tub.
Phase Four: Starbucks, My Writing Space Savior
Right across the street from my apartment building is a Starbucks. I know that folks living in or around Cambridge think I’m crazy, given all the wonderful coffee shops in the area. So far, however, I’ve found that this is the perfect place for me.
This particular Starbucks is busy but also roomy enough that I don’t feel guilty for taking a seat and working (which is rare in Cambridge). I purchase my white chocolate mocha, caramel latte, or java chip frappuchino, settle in a chair facing the window, and break out my laptop. In addition to the pleasant, busy atmosphere, Starbucks also offers free wireless. I’m able to use the internet for research or email, but because I’m surrounded by people and activity, I’m able to keep focused.
Of course, there’s an obvious downside to working at a coffee shop: it definitely takes a chunk out of my paycheck. I try to follow proper coffee shop etiquette and order drink refills every so often.
In fact, I’m in a Starbucks right now, being wicked productive. When I return to my apartment Nike will come running to the door and hop on the kitchen table to scam me for treats. The system works for both of us.