Guest Post: Finding A Place to Write

by Matthew Kressel.

mattAs most writers know, finding the perfect place to write is almost as challenging as writing itself. Of course, some will say that there is no perfect place to write. That you must write everywhere and anywhere you can. Perhaps that’s true. But for anyone who has ever tried to write in a crowded coffee shop, with babies screaming, people on cell phones, and the guy in the table beside you who keeps sniffling and smells like he put on too much cologne this morning — well, I’d say that some spots are better than others.

I used to write in my living room / office nook, which for most of the day is about as dark as a cave. But since I use the same computer for my day job stuff as a web designer / programmer, I found it was best to separate the two locations. So I wrote in the kitchen, on the hard wooden chairs. That’s where I finished the final draft of “The Sounds of Old Earth,” which is now up for a Nebula Award. You would think that I’d stay put, since the location appears to have worked in my favor.

But ever on the search for a better place, one day I was hit with one of those lightning bolt realizations. My bedroom is sunny almost all day. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me before. So now, this is where I do most of my writing:

My writing desk

My writing desk in Queens, NY

Yeah, it may not be the most ergonomic setup imaginable. But it suits me. On those cold winter days, when it was 7 degrees outside, I found myself right beside the radiator. That and with the sun, I am usually quite toasty here. I even have a small succulent plant to keep me company. C and I call her Bertha.

I have a secret. This new writing location didn’t come entirely out of the blue. Though it took me several months to come up with the idea, I modeled my setup after this:

My writing desk in Maine

My writing desk in West Bath, Maine

This past summer, C and I spent a week at a cottage in West Bath, Maine that overlooked a tidal estuary. Every six hours the tide went in and out, and the waters receded so much you could (if you had the right shoes) walk across to the other side. I wrote at this desk every morning, a mug of hot tea beside me, while the local wildlife chirped, twittered and cheeped from the bordering forest. If ever there was a writing desk, this was it.

And so I modeled my home desk after this perfect spot. And while the M-train subway cars rattling outside my window aren’t quite as natural as the trickling tides, I do find soothing the regular rumble of the trains. And while my current view is a cement backyard, and a barb-wire fence, and a bus depot and train yard, none of this really matters when the sun is shining and the words are flowing, because I’m deep into a story, somewhere in outer space in the far future, or at a rock concert swarming with time travelers, or walking through old factories in a New England post-industrial town, or somewhere else.

So maybe those people who say you must be able to write anywhere are correct; once your imagination takes over, it doesn’t matter where you are. But I still believe that some spots are more conducive to creativity. And those spots don’t necessarily need to be at a cottage overlooking a tidal estuary. There might be one right beside you.

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Matthew Kressel is a Nebula Award-nominated writer and World Fantasy Award-nominated editor. His short story “The Sounds of Old Earth” has just been nominated for a Nebula Award. The story has also made the 2013 Locus Recommended Reading List. His short stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld Magazine, io9.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, Electric Velocipede, Apex Magazine, and the anthologies Naked City, After, The People of the Book, and The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, as well as other markets. He ran Senses Five Press, which published the ‘zine Sybil’s Garage and the anthology Paper Cities, which won the World Fantasy Award. Matt was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award for his work with Sybil’s Garage. He currently co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series in Manhattan beside Ellen Datlow and is a long-time member of the Altered Fluid writing group. In his spare time he teaches himself Yiddish. His website is www.matthewkressel.net, where this post first appeared.

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