My supervisor at a college where I once taught said to me one day as I was freewriting in my journal, “Ah, the life of a writer. Sitting along the bank of a river, leaning against a tree, feeling the breeze in his hair as he writes.”
Well, maybe that was his ideal writer’s space. (I was actually sitting at my desk in a cramped office at the time.) It’s not mine, as idyllic as it sounds.
As I grew to maturity as a writer I always found myself attracted to restaurants when I wanted to write. Sometimes it was a restaurant where a friend worked. At others the attraction was the food.
But more often than not it had a booth where I could spread out my books and papers, the wait staff and management welcomed me no matter how long I stayed or how little I spent, and they kept my coffee cup or iced tea glass full. After I purchased my first laptop, an electric outlet became necessary. Anything else—air conditioning, good music, herbal iced tea, a booth by the window, real cream instead of ersatz, cleanliness—was a bonus.
In years past, my favorite writer’s spaces have been IHOP, Big Boy, McDonald’s, and Panera. They’re chains more by accident than by design but the conformity of branches around the country makes me feel at home wherever I travel.
My current favorite writer’s space is a Panera two miles from my home on the main street that connects Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and leads to the freeway. It’s clean. My table is all the way in the back where the windows don’t reach, so on a good writing day I don’t know what the weather outside was that day until I go home in the evening.
But it’s got an electric outlet on the wall next to it and it’s by the iced tea and the restroom. Music lacks the energy and drive of the fifties, sixties, and seventies songs that inspired my writing at a past favorite McDonald’s but the staff welcome me as family no matter what time I arrive and several of them have bought my books. With my cell phone and my laptop, I long ago made it my official office.
If only I could get my accountant to let me write off my meals under “Office Expenses” or “Rent.”
What’s your writer’s space?
[This piece was adapted from a sidebar in Transforming Lives: A Socially Responsible Guide to the Magic of Writing and Researching.]