You find yourself pressed between the dueling kick drums of neighboring apartments. Off tempo rhythms compete for dominance. Giant blacksmiths hammer anvils as big as houses. Dinosaurs march down the street. Subwoofers fart. Every so often, you make out the digital squeal of auto-tuned vocals. The rapid fire pulse of an arpeggiating synth.
The windows rattle. The support beams quake. Your cat hides in the crawlspace she sliced into your box spring. Your dog sits at your feet quivering. Her eyes are glazed over. They never stray from contact. If you can write in this environment, then you can write anywhere.
You fantasize about a private workspace. The closed door that Stephen King insists you write behind. A sound proof haven, to hear your own thoughts. There’d be a standing desk at the center. A computer would project your words onto a big screen. There’d be potted branches in every corner. They’d cast woodland shadows on the walls. Spot lights would cast aurora borealis. Glow in the dark dots on the ceiling would emulate stars. The wallpaper will showcase an endless forrest. Surround sound speakers would pump mood music in. There would be cork boards filled with notecards. String and tack charts to link your characters’ family trees. Standing there, in the majesty of your space, you’d feel more like a conductor than an author.
Your actual surroundings tend to be a bit, shall we say, less relaxing.
The constant ping as teamsters hammer foundation columns. The drunken parade rolling down the sidewalk, through the sprinklers, up to the neighbor’s window. They tap on the glass in lieu of a door. Riding on the bus, where teenage girls on their phones render eavesdropping mandatory.
If you can write on the metro transit, you can write anywhere.
In college you had a writing exercise: go somewhere outside of your element and write about it. There was to be no narrative. No protagonist to gum up the work with bias. This was strictly a descriptive piece. The idea being, if you’re out of your element you’ll take nothing for granted. You’ll notice everything.
You set out to exceed your professor’s expectations. You got beached-whale-drunk. Then you stumbled on over to the Church of Scientology to get yourself an audit. You found yourself under constant observation. Micro expressions of judgement flickered from every desk. There was a camera in the smoke detector. When you eventually had to drain the contents of your bladder, you found yourself with an escort peeping over your shoulder.
If you can write in the middle of an audit you can write anywhere.
You’ve learned to write in bursts. As a museum guard, you hid a notepad up your sleeve. When inspiration struck, you hid beneath a security camera or ducked into an exhibit. These days when you find yourself pacing around the bus stop, you can press a button on your headphones and dictate your ideas. With the flick of the wrist you can alternate between Wikipedia and your word processor.
The point of all this musing on writing spaces is that most of you won’t be afforded one. You’ll have to learn to work through your barista’s obsession with the more bombastic side of Tom Waits’s catalog. You’ll have to type with someone venting into your ear, or with the God damn TV on.
Maybe you’ve found yourself a hidey-hole where the cappuccino machines are whisper quiet. Maybe you do your best work from an abandon tree house in the middle of the woods. Well, good on you mate. As for the rest of us, we’ve got to keep drudging through the dissonance. Through the urban cacophony of sirens and car alarms. If you can write without a closed door, you can write anywhere.