Monday, August 10, 2009


Places I like to Write

by Rebecca Cantrell

Ah, this one’s more complicated than it looks. I grew up with four siblings and it seems like we constantly have house guests or extras around. So, I like to write anywhere that no one is poking me, talking to me, waving their arms, sitting on my hands while I type (you know how you are), talking loudly on the phone, asking for food, handing me papers to sign, standing around with bandaids or pressing medical issues, crying, or just in general expecting me to interact with them. This means I usually need to leave the house.

The good news: I can write any place I’m not being actively bothered. I’ve written outside at my blue desk staring at the ocean, at cafes, in airplanes, in airports, on friends’ couches, at the beach, in the closet, in a snow cave (that one’s hard to do for very long), on the subway, and in the bathroom at night (hotel room with roommates).

Right now I write at Starbucks. I put on my headphones, sip my chai, and drink up the air conditioning. I like to write where it’s chilly enough to need a light jacket or a long-sleeved shirt. In Hawaii, that’s not easy. I like to write in the corner with my back against the wall so no Nazis can sneak up on me. I like to go out into the bright, warm sunshine when I’m finished so that I can remember that, as real as it seemed while I was writing it, I actually made it all up and the real world is much warmer and fuzzier and gentler (yes, I know that’s not really true, but it’s what I like to think, so don’t burst my bubble).

My favorite place to write: from deep inside my head, from that place where you can’t hear any noises no matter how loud they are, where you don’t notice people walking by, where you don’t even realize that time is passing. As long as no one pokes me, I can get there almost any where. On good days.

How about you? How do you get to the magic place?

Rebecca Cantrell, A Trace of Smoke


Jen Forbus said...

Wow! I know that place you're talking about, Rebecca! I find it when I'm reading - see you transport the readers to that same place. My thing is, when I get there, sometimes even poking doesn't bring me out. If I get really pulled it, the outside world really does disappear. Sometimes I also find this place when I'm crafting. I think it's my favorite place.

CJ Lyons said...

I'm so in awe that you can write at Starbucks! Even with music on, I get too distracted by all the other people--I start watching them and imagining what if, and suddenly I'm no longer in the imaginary world of MY story but in theirs, lol!

Sophie Littlefield said...

ooooh, snow cave....hadn't thought of that one. :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi Jen,

Thanks for stopping by! I do get in that place when I read, but I forgot to mention it. It's an amazing feeling, isn't it? I think I've only ever gotten there writing, reading, and staring at babies (well, those are the only activities I'll admit to on the Internet).

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi CJ,

I have pretty good concentration in the midst of chaos, as long as the chaos is not my problem (i.e, at Starbucks, where if I hear breaking glass I don't need to do a thing unless I get hit by shards). I do wonder if playing the headphones is harming my hearing though.

Rebecca Cantrell said...


Snow caves are great. Bundles yourself up, get a flashlight, and you're good to go. It's a bit of work to build one, but when I was a kid in AK, I had lots and lots of time to build hidey holes.

I have strong hermit tendencies...

Unknown said...

This simple task has been the hardest part of writing consistently for me. I live in San Francisco, space challenged to say the least. I've tried writing at home with the door closed -- but I know he's out there, hanging out, waiting until I finish. Or the cat parks her behind right by the door and meows at her special baby-crying frequency. Roxi's meow even gets on the vet's nerves...

I can't write at work, it all comes out sounding like a database installation guide!

Cafes are okay, but you never know in crowded SF if there will be a spot, and then I've wasted 20 minutes getting there and I only have 90 minutes to write...

My alma mater is sometimes good, but the hours don't always work and it is on the wrong side of town. I've actually rented two office spaces, but being san francisco the hours are limited and the locations inconvenient (in my price range). I've got some writer friends, we keep trying to go in together, but SF is a tough town...

My longest writing spell was in the Colorado Rockies, a whole winter to get my screenplay done.

Clearly I need to man up and do *something*, I'm just not sure what. I'm not studly enough to get up and write at 2am like some writers (you know who you are!). Develop some psychic immunity so I can write at home, or find the old man a twice-a-week hobby :)

Thanks for the fun post Rebecca!


I really want a room of my own. Just not sure how to get it w/out moving out of SF :)

Leslie said...

I'm new to this, but when I hit the groove writing, I can ignore the rest of the world and it really doesn't matter where I am. The hard part is getting into that state.

If I'm not quite clicking, then the world is a distracting place no matter where I am. I do find that sometimes a change of scenery can help get me shift gears!

I work at a computer all day, so after work I not only switch to a different computer I also use a different operating system, application, and location (at least a another room)!

Regardless of how you get there, when you hit it right, it is magic!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi Mysti!

It is tough to find time and space. That's one advantage to
living in the middle of nowhere: there is a lot
of space. ;)

Sometimes I just drive around the corner
and write in the car. Can't be very ergonomic,
but it's good for my sanity and that has
to count for something.

Shane Gericke said...

I spent many years in a newsroom, with police radios blaring and copy editors growling and editors bitching and moaning. So I love writing in a cafe or some other place where there's noise. Not with headphones on, though. I like the prospect of action, even if it's only that dropped glass Rebecca mentions.

Growing up in Chicago, we rarely got enough snow to built a snow cave. But in the late Sixties, there was a storm big enough to merit us building an igloo. Me, Dad and my sister Marianne built it ... then slept in it that night. It was a LOT of fun, and most surprising, roasting warm. Three bodies and all that snow insulation adds up to a lot of heat generated.

Around dawn, though, I hadda pee, so I went back in the house and did my lil' business and the bed looked so comfy I laid down and stayed. Adventures are neat, but so are inner springs.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi Leslie! And congratulations in winning
last month. Changing location and operating
system? That's dedication! Whatever it takes
to switch gears...

It is a bit like magic though, isn't it?

Leslie said...

Thanks Becky!

I'm so enjoying my moment of fame! It seems every time I turn around there's a new surprise waiting for me! Who knows what surprise is in store for me next! ;-)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I am one comment behind here, sorry!

Noise or no noise? I prefer music.

And i'm of the age to take inner springs over snow..,