Jun 21

Where To Write

Where to write is as important to figure out as when. Like everything else in the writing biz, there are no rules.
I once knew a science fiction novelist who did his best work in a Pizza Hut in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when the place was busy and there were noise all around him.
A similar story is told about Mario Puzo (The Godfather). When he hit it big and was able to build his dream house, he built a writing shack (or room, or outhouse — whatever you want to call it) where he could have solitude to work. After a couple of weeks of being able to produce nothing, he reportedly picked up his typewriter and came back in the house, parking his machine and himself at the kitchen table with all the family activity going on around him at full tilt. Here he was able to write again.
Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, wrote his novels during his summer break from being a reporter for a London newspaper (The Times I believe). Fleming had a home on the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica – called “Goldeneye” – where he’d do his writing.
An opposite effect kind to story is part of the Russian novelist (The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) and Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s legacy. After being released from Soviet prisons and allowed to leave Russia, he made his home his home for two decades in the United State. But Solzhenitsyn found himself unable to write in the spacious office of his Vermont estate. Eventually moved into what we would call a walk-in closet where he placed his desk. In this claustrophobic environment, surrounded by his books, he was once again able to work.
Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, 1953, Spartacus, 1960, Exodus, 1960, Papillon, 1973) liked to do his writing in the bathtub. There’s a picture of him doing just that on the back cover of his biography Dalton Trumbo, by Bruce Cook.
Again, no rules. Whatever works for you is wonderful. Perhaps you need a “clean well lighted place”, or a dark secluded spot, or right in the center of the action.
Like I pointed out in my post “When To Write”, Western novelist Louis L’Amour (Hondo, The Sackett series, How The West Was Won and many, many more) said he could write anywhere, any time.
Back when I was Chair of the Department of Communication at The University of Texas-Pan American for eleven years, I was able to produce a screenplay a year for our student produced feature films, as well as all the other assorted academic papers and administrative letters, reports, and documents the position required in my office with the door always open and people constantly coming in and out as they needed (or sometimes just wanted to chat). There were people who were amazed that I got anything done under those circumstances because they required a closed door and the phone off the hook to focus on their task at hand.
There’s nothing wonderful about the way I happened to be able to work, it’s simply the way I am. I don’t advocate this as a style for anyone to emulate and I only point it out as another way of saying, “different strokes for different folks.”
What you need to do is to discover what and where you need to do your best work. Only time and trial will reveal it to you.
The “ideal” setting of a beautiful view, hot and cold running maids (that’s an old joke), with music for an expensive sound system and the latest in computer software could all be totally wrong for you.
I remember a cartoon from one of the writer’s magazines (The Writer or Writer’s Digest ) showing a mother trying to write with a typewriter on a kitchen table while her children ran screaming around her with pots and pans in hand while another sat bawling at the top of his lungs in a high-chair at the other end of the table. The mother was saying something like, “Maybe Irma Bombeck’s kids were just funnier than mine.”

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