I live in a black hole. When I moved to my current home, I was a customer of a broadband company, but one day, the Internet connection virtually disappeared. I called day after day and even had a techie come out who was unable to diagnose any problem. Eventually, I was informed that the tower that served the area was taken out. Okay, a minor oversight? I don’t even know what a tower looks like but I envision a huge, tall, thin steel structure with wires hanging all over it. Something that would require major manpower to dismantle. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s the size of a lunch box and no one at the company noticed it wasn’t hanging on the wall above the water cooler anymore.
After that, I was forced to pay blood-sucking Verizon a lot of money to get almost non-existent Internet service from a 2x4 black box called MiFi. MiFi at my house, in the middle of woods and fields, not unlike bad hair days, does not cooperate if too windy, too snowy, too rainy or too humid.
Virginia Woolf famously insisted that in order to write professionally a woman must have “a room of her own.” Not having a fully “wired” room of my own, I spend a lot of time writing in different locations. This can be both good and bad. I mean, Jack Kerouac wrote the novel Doctor Sax in a toilet in William Burroughs' apartment.
Sometimes you will find me, not in a bathroom, but at the library. I can only sit there between three or four hours. The hard wooden chairs make me want to get on the floor and do my butt burning stretches. Plus, if it’s crowded, someone ends up at my table and I take it as a personal intrusion. There is only one private table in a small hidden corner of the library and the same guy is there all the time. I swear he’s looking at porn. There is also a “NO FOOD, NO DRINKS” sign at the entrance. I think librarians, especially female ones, were Nazi commandants in another life. I stash snacks and water in my purse and am always in fear of getting busted. The workstations are pretty visible, but I’ve learned to eat like a ventriloquist learns to talk.
In warm weather, I sometimes write on a friend’s porch overlooking the water. Unfortunately, I discover myself gazing out onto the river at the wildlife and drift into a quasi-meditative state. One day I started lugging my Mac around taking pics of myself with geese and nature in the background. Needless to say, natural beauty only inspires me to be lazy. Not everyone agrees of course. Thomas Mann preferred writing in a wicker chair by the sea.
My favorite place is the local coffeehouse. You have to go there hungry because most baristas just don’t want you camping out all day if you don’t have a meal or two. At first, I was convinced it would be too distracting for disciplined writing. People floating in and out, conversations swapped and music sailing through speakers seemed all too much.
Oddly enough, when the stimulation eventually receded into the background I could write. Now, there are times when an hour passes, then another hour, then another and I look up and the café is empty. I think to myself “This is working!”
I’ve finally learned that there’s no perfect atmosphere, pen or circumstance. If you really want to write, anywhere is perfect.