I can see the point in writers taking off to some shack on the coast or deep in the forest to find that solitude and freedom from interruption they need. Didn’t Jack Kerouac do that when he headed off to that shack at Big Sur to write his book of the same name during his later, troubled years?
That, though, is not for me. Or it would be for me if I had the shack, the beach or the forest to take off to. I have to make do with the place I live, and my writing there is distributed between my small apartment and the cafes down the road.
Of the places in my apartment where I find writing is best done, it is my bedroom that is most conducive. I don’t mean that I loll about in bed well into the day, laptop of iPad propped on knee. It is just that my bedroom has that right quality of light and a view through the eucalypts to places more distant down towards Botany Bay and the Kurnell peninsula.
Bedroom or living room, both are only a few steps from the kitchen and coffee…
That view is conducive to those brief mental breaks when I look out trying to formulate words in my head. And that quality of light is indirect because the window faces south, away from the sun with its glary, direct light here in the southern hemisphere. Except in mid-summer when the late afternoon sun swings to the far south west and shines onto the side wall, the light is of a subdued though bright-enough kind that makes my bedroom a good place to inhabit when I need to put finger to keyboard. Other times I write on a small table in the living room.
Bedroom or living room, both are only a few steps from the kitchen and coffee, the preferred neorochemical stimulant of so many writers.
Once, I wrote in cafes accompanied by an extra-hot cuppuccino. Then, I wrote in a notebook, reassembling later on a laptop at home what I wrote in the cafe. I started by using one of those A6 size spiral bound notebooks with the spiral at the top rather than on the side.
Later I adopted the similar-sized Moleskine notebook. Sure, it felt nicer to write in, it was conducive to cafe-based writing and the advertising did say that Hemingway used a Moleskine, however that association seemed to do little to improve my own work and the Moleskine was, well, somewhat of an expensive luxury.
I still carry a Moleskine in my shoulder bag or pack, but one of the smaller, cheaper variety. I don’t use it much these days because I have adopted a different writing technology.
Technology and writing are not all-too-often associated. But I associate them, especially since, some years ago, I acquired an iPad. Where I once scribbled notes in a Moleskine I now tap then out on that device.
The advantages of this technology-enabled writing is that rather than a set of notes or a rough, hand-written draft, I can produce a finished story on the iPad while sitting in a cafe. That’s because writing and editing is simple on the device thanks to the apps available to writers. I used to use IA Writer app for my work but now I use an app called Ulysses, a piece of software specially designed for writers, journalists and anyone who need to string a few words together.
This combination of iPad and writer’s app was just what I needed for coffee-accompanied writing in cafes. There are two suitable cafes nearby, one with free wifi, and that helps when you need to search for information online. There, I regularly see a man doing whatever work it is he does, his Mac Air laptop sharing his table with his coffee cup. That’s a common sight around the city.
The other cafe has no wifi. That doesn’t bother me because My habit is to write then later review at home what I have written so as to make edits before sending it off.
So, I don’t need that absolute solitude of the beach, the forest, the mountain to write. What I do like having, though, are different places around home that I can write in, and those two cafes in easy walking distance where people with their tablets and laptops are a common sight.
Sure, not all of them are writers, but some are, and knowing that brings a reassurance that I am not some literary abberation but just one of those people who like to work in the company of others even though you have no direct contact with them.
I guess it’s a kind-of solitude among many.