In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
Where do you write?
People who write freehand have long had plenty of choices, but those of us who compose at the keyboard were long tied to wherever the computer (or typewriter) was. They were appliances, far too cumbersome (and fragile, and expensive) to carry around. In college, I wrote in the campus computer center; in grad school, I wrote in my bedroom. Even into the 2000’s, I wrote in the basement, because that was where the computer was.
Cheaper and lighter laptops, and now tablets, have given us keyboard composers some of the geographic mobility of our pen and paper colleagues. Which means, among other things, that we have to make choices that used to be made for us.
Picking a writing spot is partly a function of life circumstances. As a Dad, I need to be home a lot, so just schlepping off to a local cafe every day isn’t an option. (In grad school, it would have been.) Even closing myself off in some isolated room of the house doesn’t fly for long. So I’ve learned to make peace with interruptions, and to do what can be done at the kitchen table.
(Learning to work with interruptions is where parenting and administration are remarkably similar. In both cases, interruptions simply come with the territory.)
Laundromats make surprisingly good writing spots, since the white noise of the dryers is just enough to keep me focused. The waiting room at the music place where TB and TG take lessons works really well, even though the wifi is spotty; the muffled sounds from the practice rooms provide good background noise, and the limited time and lack of other things to do provide a nice deadline effect. I’ve even found a few cheap lunch spots near campus where I can get good wifi and a start on a blog post during my lunch break. As an introvert, the occasional writing lunch keeps me sane.
Location also varies depending on the kind of writing. For blog posts or other short pieces, I have a lot more flexibility than I do with, say, a book manuscript. If I need several pieces of paper surrounding the keyboard, for various reasons, then the laundromat or takeout place just won’t do. Proofreading long pieces on the screen doesn’t work for me; when I’m in Rewrite Hell, I need to be close to a printer. And coffee. And a music source. And no sharp objects.
Writing in the office is hit-and-miss. I don’t write blog posts there -- kind of a church/state thing -- but there’s a surprising amount of “daily business” writing that has to happen. The office has a quick printer, which is a plus, but the pace doesn’t usually lend itself.
I’ve heard from many faculty that they don’t usually write in their offices, either, and for similar reasons. The location is too public; you’re sort of on call, and the interruptions can be serious.
Wise and worldly readers, where do you write? Is there a particular spot that works consistently, or do you have to mix it up? I’m especially curious about folks with youngish kids. How do you balance focus with accessibility?
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