Posted tagged ‘writing on the subway’

Blocking Writer’s Block: Don’t Worry About the Where

May 11, 2010

Writing IN Your Notebook

I am returning to my series of posts on blocking writer’s block this morning at one of my favorite secret places for writing—the New York County Supreme Court building at  111 Centre Street.

Yes, the downstairs lobby is a bit tacky.  From the outside, the place looks dark, shut down; you feel almost certain from the sidewalk, that the main exterior doors will not open when you push.  (In fact, they do not open–much.   They squeak, scrape, and stick; with a lot of force, you can just wedge yourself through.)

But when you do get inside the building, past the metal detectors, beyond the dingy elevators, up to a highish floor, a sea change occurs—the main corridors here are lovely, with granite floors, marble (or faux marble) walls, and tall windows edging the South, West and East exposures, looking out over lower Manhattan.

I’m not saying that these corridors are particularly posh—there’s a definite utilitarian cast to the white plaster-board of the dropped ceilings.  Even the granite and marble look as if the colors were chosen not to show dirt.  (These are public buildings, after all.)

But the wooden benches that line the windowed walls are smooth and comfortable,  sunny and light, and, if you are not on a floor of bored and disgruntled jurors, the corridor carries such a serene hush that when, in the midst of muted steps, you hear a murmur about “what street informants want,” you are definitely taken aback.

I have to say upfront that I’ve never gone to New York Supreme just to write—I’ve always had some official purpose, and had to sit there waiting to fulfill it.   But it is nonetheless a very good place for writing.  (If you haven’t been sub poenaed, virtually no one bothers you.) Important caveat:  I think that coming in here just for a quiet place to work might actually constitute some kind of crime; it’s probably best not engage in it in a place filled with cops.  (They tend to be big cops, their hips bulging with handguns and, well, hip.)

So now, I’m on the subway writing.  It’s also not bad.  Yes, an unseasonably cold day makes the seasonal air conditioning drafty; the mechanized voices jabber nonstop, and there is the constant loud whir, bing, squeal of the engine, wheels, track.  Still, I have a seat.   (It’s not a rush hour train.)

More importantly,  I’m not just writing on the train right now—I’m mainly writing in my notebook. Which is about as quiet and uncluttered and spacious as lined white paper can be.

The point of all this:  don’t worry about where you are doing your work.  Don’t put it off because you don’t have the right space (a writer’s room, cabin, desk, even computer).  Don’t put it off even to wait for  the right moment.   I know it sounds clichéd, but the fact is that the only place you ever have to write is the place you are right now;  the only moment you ever have is this one.

To some degree, the same reasoning can be applied to drawing and painting. Again, of course, it’s wonderful to have a lovely studio, easel, table, but your drawing is not made only in your studio.  The place it truly inhabits is the page (or napkin or envelope.)

Of course, some places are genuinely more inconvenient or conducive than others;  if you have access to a convenient, conducive place, take it!  But the factor that most quickly makes a space workable is simply working in it.  Engagement is a great architect/decorator.

I don’t write this to be annoying, or to tout my own powers of concentration.  (They are not very good–when I write in a public space, I sometimes just follow my mind’s meanderings.)  I write to help counteract the many forces that lull one into procrastination.

If you want to work, then get to work!  Wherever!

(P.S. For more on blocking writer’s block, check out the writer’s block category on the ManicDDaily home page.)

(P.P.S. Computer problems delayed the posting of this post beyond my daily deadline, drat!  Sorry!)